However, the Libyan authorities have denied imposing new restrictions.
 
"The border post at Salloum is almost deserted," the government newspaper Al-Ahram said from the desert border. "The movement of (Egyptian) cars has dropped from 2000 to 80 vehicles per day."

Egyptians wanting to enter Libya must now show "a work contract and the sum of 350 dollars or the equivalent in Libyan dinars or Egyptian pounds," according to Al-Ahram's correspondent.

Ahmad Haridi, an Egyptian worker quoted by Al-Ahram, said he was surprised when the Libyan authorities asked him and fellow travellers to display their work contracts and pay the $350 in order to enter Libya.

"When we told them that this measure had not been applied before, they replied that it was a new system," Haridi was quoted as saying.
 
Egyptians had until now crossed only with their identity papers.
 
Restrictions denied

Al-Akhbar, another government daily, said only four Egyptians managed to enter Libya in the last few days and added that Egypt slapped a reciprocal requirement that Libyans now obtain visas at the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli.

However, the authorities in both countries have denied imposing new restrictions, sowing further confusion.

Border police said the Libyan authorities at Sallum blocked about 700 Egyptians from entering Libya on Friday and Saturday.

Emergency meeting

Meanwhile, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Alam al-Yum said parliament's committee on labour would hold an emergency meeting later on Sunday to hear what Labor Minister Ahmad Al-Amawi planned to do to protect Egyptians barred from Libya.

Diplomatic sources in Tripoli put the tension in the context of Libyan "irritation" over Egyptian press criticism for Libya's unilateral decision last month to renounce efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

The newspaper said between 1.5 and two million Egyptians work in oil-rich Libya.

Diplomatic sources in Tripoli put the tension in the context of Libyan "irritation" over Egyptian press criticism for Libya's unilateral decision last month to renounce efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Egyptian newspapers, including those run by the government, said the decision weakened the Arab effort to force Israel to abandon its undeclared nuclear weapons program.

The Libyan embassy in Egypt has filed a complaint with the state prosecutor against 15 journalists from opposition and independent newspapers which allegedly criticised Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi over his WMD decision, the Egyptian journalists' union revealed on Saturday.