France confirms Libya arms deal

French government denies link to release of six medics jailed in Libya.

    France has denied the arms deal is linked to the release of six medics jailed in Libya [AFP]

    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.

       

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.