Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to Tripoli to sign a nuclear and military co-operation agreement the day after five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of infecting hundreds of children with HIV were sent home.

The presidency issued a statement on Friday saying he would welcome an "inquiry into recent developments in the relations between France  and Libya."

Weapons embargo

The deal is the first arms contract to be signed by Libya and a Western country since an international weapons embargo was lifted in 2004.

"We're seeing a sort of systematic procedure to demolish a real French diplomatic success"

Herve Morin,
French defence minister
A Libyan source said a $230 million contract was signed for Milan anti-tank missiles and another $175 million deal was reached for communications systems.

"This [missile] contract is awaiting the signature of the Libyan client, and Eads is happy that the negotiations could be concluded," the company said in a statement.

Herve Morin, French defence minister, said the groundwork for the deal had been done under the previous government which approved the sale of the anti-tank missiles in February, before Sarkozy's victory in the May presidential election.


Morin said criticism from the Socialists was intended to discredit Sarkozy's part in securing the release of the medics after a mission to Tripoli by his wife Cecilia.

"We're seeing a sort of systematic procedure to demolish a real French diplomatic success," he said.

Broader agreement

On Wednesday, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was quoted by Le Monde, the French newspaper, as saying that France had agreed to sell anti-tank missiles to Libya as part of a broader military agreement.

 

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said resolving the case of the medics had paved the way for the weapons contracts.

David Martinon, Sarkozy's spokesman, admitted the president's visit had improved the climate between the two countries and may have helped the deal with Eads.

"It's true that President Sarkozy's state visit to Tripoli was very successful because the negotiations for freeing the nurses had gone through just before and it seems that greatly accelerated things to the benefit of French companies," he said.