Libya has stopped issuing entry visas to citizens of most European countries, officials said on Monday, in an apparent escalation of its diplomatic row with Switzerland.
The visa suspension emerged a day after a Libyan newspaper reported that the North African country would take "severe measures" in response to Switzerland drawing up a visa blacklist that included Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family.
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.
A notice on France's Foreign Ministry website said Libya had suspended visas for the Schengen area - 25 European countries, including some which, like Switzerland, are not in the European Union. EU members Britain, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus are not in Schengen.
'Libya's unilateral step regrettable'
A spokesman for Italy's Foreign Ministry said Libya had suspended visas in response to the Swiss restrictions. "Contacts are under way between the countries of the zone to coordinate over this measure," a ministry spokesman said.
"Libya's unilateral step is regrettable," a German foreign ministry spokesman said. "We expect it to be repealed." The ministry website said previously issued visas were now invalid and that only people with residency permits could enter Libya.
Asked by Reuters to confirm reports of the suspension, an official at Libya's main international airport, who did not want to be identified, said: "This is right. This decision has been taken. No visas for Europeans, except Britain."
No explanation was given for the suspension, and there was no official confirmation from the Libyan government. The French ministry said the measure took effect on Sunday without warning.