Germany expels five Libyan diplomats
Germany is expelling five Libyan diplomats for exercising duress on Libyan exiles, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said Wednesday, dpa reported.
The ministry said it had summoned the Libyan ambassador and had informed him that the five must leave within seven days. However, it insisted the move was not directly related to the current conflict in Libya, which sees forces loyal to leader Moamer Gaddafi battle against anti-government rebels.
"The decision is based purely on professional and diplomatic criteria," said ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke.
The announcement came a day before Berlin was due to host a meeting of NATO foreign ministers to discuss the bloc's military campaign aimed at protecting Libyan civilians.
The ministry gave no details of the pressure the diplomats had exerted on Libyan nationals living in Germany, or when it occurred.
The five Libyans had been classified as "persona non grata" for breaching their diplomatic duties, Peschke said, adding that this was the "ultimate measure" a country could take against accredited foreign diplomats.
"This is applied very rarely," the spokesman said. He could not think of a similar recent case when so many diplomats had been expelled in one go.
Earlier this year, Germany convicted and expelled a Libyan embassy employee for spying on Libyan exiles. Prosecutors said the aim was to weaken political groups opposed to Gaddafi, to the point of collapse.