Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gadhafi son says French arms deal key to medics' release; Sarkozy denies deal

Saif al-Islam, The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi

Report: Gadhafi son says French arms deal key to medics' release; Sarkozy denies deal

The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
PARIS: The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said a deal to buy military hardware from France was a key element of negotiations that led to the release of six medics detained in Libya, the daily Le Monde said Wednesday.
But President Nicolas Sarkozy said no armament deals were concluded with Libya. The Foreign Ministry refused to comment.
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi also was quoted by Le Monde as saying an agreement for France to intervene militarily to defend Libya from security threats had also been on the negotiating table, but he was not sure it had figured into the final deal.
Under an accord partially brokered by French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and EU officials, Libya released the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor on July 24. The medics, who had spent 8 1/2 years in prison, faced life sentences on charges they deliberately infected hundreds of children with the AIDS virus — an allegation they denied.
French officials have provided few details about the accord, but Seif al-Islam Gadhafi claimed it included the sale of French Milan anti-tank missiles for an estimated €100 million (US$137 million) and a deal on the joint Franco-Libyan manufacture of military equipment, according to Le Monde. It also included an agreement to conduct joint military exercises, he was quoted as saying, adding it was Libya's first military deal with a Western nation.
Sarkozy replied with a brusque "no" when reporters asked on Wednesday if any armament deals were concluded with Libya. When pressed about any such agreement in exchange for the medical workers' freedom, he said simply "none."
David Martinon, his spokesman, in a fuller reply later, said: "There was no armaments contract signed during the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy to Libya."
The Foreign Ministry had no comment.
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi — who heads the Gadhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations and was a key player in the negotiations — said the possibility of the security agreement had also been under discussion.
"But I'm not sure if that article was maintained in the (final) document," he was quoted as saying.
Libya — long considered a pariah state for its involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland — has been attempting to end its isolation.
In 2003, it accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, and agreed to pay restitution to the victims' families. The Libyan leader also announced he was dismantling his nuclear weapons program, which led to the lifting of U.S. and European sanctions against the country.
The release of the medics removed the last major obstacle to Libya's rejoining the international community.
Sarkozy was quick to renew ties with the oil-rich nation, traveling to the capital, Tripoli, for talks with Moammar Gadhafi the day after the medics were returned to Bulgaria on a French presidential plane.
Following the meeting, Sarkozy announced an initial agreement to sell Libya a nuclear-powered plant. Sarkozy said the civilian nuclear technology would be used to desalinate sea water.
In the Le Monde interview, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi did not mention the planned desalination plant. He said that nuclear technology would allow Libya to export energy — possibly to Italy.

Speculation over French arms deal with Libya

The son of the Libya's Muammar Gadaffi has given a controversial interview to a leading French newspaper and caused a political storm for France's new president. Saif al-Islam has implied that the recent release of six foreign medics imprisoned in Tripoli was secured by an arms deal with France. Nicolas Sarkozy has agreed an accord on defence and signed an understanding for a nuclear energy deal. They were clinched when he went to Libya last week after helping to free the Bulgarian nurses. But Gadaffi's son, Islam, has suggested the two things are closely linked including a French sale of anti-tank missiles.
In Paris, journalists have been pursuing Nicolas Sarkozy asking if the two were connected? He responded with a definite "Non". The EU lifted its arms embargo on Libya in 2004 but it has effectively remained in place - until now.
Islam has also said that the case was connected to rumours that the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing would be extradited to Libya. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is currently being held in a Scottish prison. Britain has admitted it is working on a general judicial agreement with Tripoli including prisoner transfer but denies it will affect al-Megrahi.
Officially the release of the foreign medics - held for eight years for allegedly infecting Libyan children with HIV was achieved after funds were set up for the victims' families. Gadaffi's son says now their case is sorted out, new opportunities were arising.

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