Gaddafi claims arms-for-medics deal

Libyan leader's son says French arms deal led to medics' release; Sarkozy denies this.

    Seif el-Islam Gaddafi was a key player in the negotiations to free the Bulgarian medics [AP]
    Under an accord - partially brokered by Cecilia Sarkozy, the French first lady, and EU officials - Libya released the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor on July 24.

    The medics, who spent eight and a half years in prison, faced life imprisonment on charges that they deliberately infected hundreds of children with HIV, the virus which leads to Aids, an allegation they denied.

    French officials have said little about the accord, but Gaddafi said it included the sale of French Milan anti-tank missiles for an estimated $137m, 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.

    French denial

    Sarkozy denied any armament deal was reached to free the Bulgarian medics, and the French foreign ministry gave no comment.

    But the French president was quick to renew ties with the oil-rich nation, traveling to the capital, Tripoli, for talks with the senior Gaddafi, the country's leader, a day after the medics were returned to Bulgaria on a French presidential jet.

    Following the meeting, Sarkozy announced an initial agreement to sell Libya a nuclear-powered plant, saying the civilian nuclear technology would be used to desalinate sea water.

    Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, who heads the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, 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 said.

    In 2003, Libya 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 programme, which led to the lifting of US and European sanctions against the country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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