Switzerland on Monday condemned "targeted violence" by Libyan authorities against anti-regime protests and suspended a key step in resolving a bitter standoff with the ruling Qaddafi family.
"Following its experience with the regime in Tripoli, Switzerland is very conscious of the courage that these men and women are showing as they take to the streets to call for their democratic rights," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The foreign ministry condemns the targeted violence exerted by Libyan authorities on the demonstrators," it added, appealing to Libyan security forces to renounce the use of force "against their compatriots."
The ministry also announced that it was suspending preparatory work on an international arbitration tribunal that Berne says it was "forced" to accept in exchange for the release of two Swiss businessmen last year.
Relations between the two countries were deeply strained after the arrest of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Hannibal, in a Geneva hotel in July 2008 on suspicion of assaulting two of his domestic workers.
Hannibal was released just days later, but his arrest sparked a series of reprisals from Tripoli, including economic sanctions and immigration charges against the businessmen, who were stopped from leaving Libyan territory and intermittently detained.
Switzerland also advised its citizens against travel to Libya because of the precarious security conditions and those in the country to leave "if possible". Forty-six Swiss citizens, mainy of them dual nationals, were registered with the embassy in Tripoli.
Human rights groups and witnesses said protesters took control of several Libyan cities on Monday in a revolt against Quaddafi's autocratic rule, as gunfire crackled on the streets of Tripoli and another of his sons, Seif al-Islam, warned of civil war.