Monday, December 10, 2007

Libyan Leader Gaddafi's Visit Seals Deal With France Involving Arms and Nuclear Energy

Gaddafi visit seals French deals

France will sign contracts worth 10bn euros (£7.2bn) with Libya, President Nicolas Sarkozy has said during a rare visit by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The pacts will cover an arms deal and the building of a civilian nuclear plant in Libya, he said.

Mr Sarkozy said Libya's decision to renounce terrorism and nuclear weapons should be rewarded.

But critics - including inside Mr Sarkozy's own government - have decried Col Gaddafi's first visit since 1997.

They include France's opposition socialists, as well as President Sarkozy's own human rights minister.

Warming ties

France is the first Western country to welcome Col Gaddafi since he took the decision to end the country's diplomatic isolation four years ago.

Warming economic ties were given an additional spur in July, when negotiations between the two leaders resulted in the release of six foreign medics imprisoned in Libya on charges of infecting children with HIV.

Col Gaddafi later received his invitation to visit France.

On Monday, Mr Sarkozy said the two men were set to sign an accord agreeing contracts worth 10bn euros.

"We must encourage those who renounce terrorism, who renounce the possession of nuclear arms," Mr Sarkozy said after a meeting with the Libyan leader.

"France must speak with all of those who want to return to the road of respectability and reintegrate the international community," he added.

Mr Sarkozy mentioned arms sales and an agreement to construct a nuclear-powered desalination plant in Libya.

Previously, other deals mentioned have also included a fleet of Airbus passenger jets.

The French oil company Total already has significant investments in the oil-rich North African country.


Mr Sarkozy said he had also asked Col Gaddafi for "progress on the path of human rights", reported French news agency AFP.

The five-day visit had been strongly condemned by the French opposition.

Socialist leader Francois Hollande said Mr Sarkozy had invited "a head of state who justifies international terrorism".

Centrist politician Francois Bayrou said the visit was "shocking".

And Mr Sarkozy's junior minister for human rights, Rama Yade, said: "Col Gaddafi must understand that our country is not a doormat on which a leader - whether terrorist or not - can wipe off the blood of his crimes."

Libya ended decades of international isolation four years ago, when it gave up its pursuit of nuclear arms and pledged to renounce terrorism.

Libyan-French relations have overcome a few stumbling blocks in the past three decades, including the 1989 downing of a French airliner over Niger.

Libya accepted responsibility for that bombing and offered a compensation deal to the victims of the crash.

Col Gaddafi will travel with an entourage of 400 officials and is erecting a Bedouin tent for his stay in central Paris.

What do you think of Colonel Gadaffi's visit? Are you in France or Libya? Please send us your comments by using the form below.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/12/10 18:39:07 GMT

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