- Title: LIBYA FILE: Libyans and tourists react to visa row
- Date: 18th February 2010
- Summary: TRIPOLI, LIBYA (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (FILE) VARIOUS OF FOREIGN TOURISTS
- Embargoed: 4th March 2010 23:48
- Topics: International Relations,Travel / Tourism
- Reuters ID: LVA7RSELIU9AAOOPTDVBF7953XLJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Europeans planning to visit Libya face uncertainty after Tripoli stopped issuing entry visas to European nationals in retaliation to a similar ban by Switzerland on some Libyans, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family.
The Libyan move affects 25 European nations covered by the Schengen agreement.
The Libyan government gave no official confirmation or explanation of the measure.
But one analyst backed the government decision.
"The Libyan decision was right and objective. I think that there was no choice for Libya, given its importance and its political, international, and Arab standing," said Saleh Ibrahim, Dean of Economic Studies Academy.
Ibrahim said the Swiss move to deny visas to Libyans was racist.
"Libya has strong relations with the European Union. Trade relations and maybe the balance of payments and the balance of trade is in favour of Europe. Therefore, Europe is the bigger beneficiary. Europe says it appreciates its relations based on trade ties. We found it strange the European decision to sympathise with Switzerland unless the decision is a racist and not an economic one."
In the tourist hotspot of Tripoli's old city, visitors said the move will keep Europeans away from historic sites.
"I think it's very interesting. I think a lot of the archaelogical sites are very interesting and seem very well-preserved. So, very good," said Alex, a foreign tourist.
Others said tourism will be affected.
"I know that for some Europeans, there are problems at the moment. And that must be quite difficult for tourists to be able to plan in the future. It is difficult to plan. Most people, when they go on holiday, want to plan several months in advance and they want to know what it's going to be like in a few months' time," said another tourist.
The visa suspension left Europeans stranded at the airport in Libya and forced many to return home.
Oil exporter Libya has been attracting growing foreign investment since it emerged from decades of international isolation and the visa move could harm its business reputation, though one analyst said the suspension would be short-lived.
Libya has been locked in a row with Switzerland for months over the brief 2008 arrest of one of Gaddafi's sons in Geneva, and the subsequent prosecution in Libya of two Swiss citizens.
Swiss officials have said that other states in the Schengen zone have backed Switzerland's line on issuing visas to Libyans.
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