Oil, trade and terrorism topSchroeder visit to Libya

14th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 October 2004, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder travels to Tripoli later Thursday for talks with Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi focused on deepening Germany's role in the country's oil sector, boosting trade and expanding European Union ties, senior officials said. Schroeder, who is making the first ever visit to Libya by a German leader, will be accompanied by a 25-member business delegation. "Interest in the trip is huge," said an official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Companies taking par

14 October 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder travels to Tripoli later Thursday for talks with Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi focused on deepening Germany's role in the country's oil sector, boosting trade and expanding European Union ties, senior officials said.

Schroeder, who is making the first ever visit to Libya by a German leader, will be accompanied by a 25-member business delegation.

"Interest in the trip is huge," said an official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Companies taking part include German giants Siemens, Deutz, Linde, Lufthansa and MAN-Ferrostahl.

The official added that the Chancellery had to turn away CEOs from another 50 German companies who wanted to take part due to lack of space.

Germany's overall trade volume with Libya is still relatively modest - EUR 2.3 billion last year.

But business leaders see huge potential for growth as Libya, with over 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, sheds its status as a rogue state. Libya has for years been Germany's biggest Arab supplier of crude oil and 11 per cent of German oil comes from the country.

Schroeder will on Friday travel to an oil field about 1,000 kilometres south of Tripoli in the Libyan desert with executives of Germany's biggest oil and gas producer, Wintershall, which is part of the BASF Group.

Wintershall has invested more than USD 1.2 billion in Libya and plans spend a further 400 million dollars on the five desert oil fields where it is active as well as the Mediterranean Al-Yurf offshore field, the company said in statement.

Other contracts to be signed include a EUR 350 million deal to modernize an oil refinery by consortium comprised of Thyssen and MAN-Ferrorstahl and a EUR 180 million Siemens electrical work deal.

At the political level, the officials said Berlin had two major goals: encouraging Libya to play a bigger role in the fight against terrorism and deepening Libya's relations with the European Union by upgrading its status at regular EU-Mediterranean summits.

At present Libya is only an observer at the meetings but Gaddafi has indicated he wants full membership, said an official.

Gaddafi is apparently rolling out more of red carpet for Schroeder than for visitors from other major European states during this year including the leaders of Britain, Italy and Spain.

The Chancellor will be welcomed with full military honours on Thursday followed by a banquet in Gaddafi's compound, German officials said. There will be a second meeting on Friday after Schroeder returns from his oil field visit.

Asked why no joint news conference was planned - which Schroeder favours such trips - the official said: "I think it is standard practise that the Libyan head of state does not do joint news conferences."

In broader international terms, Schroeder's visit to Libya signals the long-awaited normalisation of German-Libyan ties. The trip only became possible after the recent first payout to victims of an apparently Libyan-ordered terrorist bombing in former West Berlin from a USD 35 million fund agreed by Libyan foundation closely linked to Gaddafi.

The bomb blast on 5 April 1986 at Berlin's "La Belle" nightclub killed two US soldiers and a civilian woman and injured about 200 people, the majority of them German. The nightclub was popular with US troops stationed in the formerly divided city.

In retaliation, then US President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Gaddafi's tent home and other targets in Libya a few weeks later, killing Gaddafi's adoptive daughter.

The German officials said their Libyan counterparts had not asked Schroeder to visit a memorial built at the bombing site, adding: "It was apparent that this was unacceptable to us."

Schroeder plans to raise human rights issues with Gaddafi, said the officials who stressed the Chancellor would in particular make a plea for Bulgarian nurses who have been sentenced to death in a AIDS scandal.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death in Libya on charges of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the deadly HIV virus which causes AIDS.

"We would be very happy if we could play a role in winning the release of the Bulgarian nurses," said the official.

Following talks in Libya, Schroeder travels to Algeria on 16 October for meetings with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Talks in Algiers will also focus on trade and terrorism, the officials said, adding: "Algeria is on a difficult path to a market economy."

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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