Chirac to visit Libya before year’s end

12th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

HONG KONG, Oct 12 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac confirmed Tuesday he would visit Libya later this year in another sign of the North African state's rehabilitation following its decision to give up weapons of mass destruction programmes.

HONG KONG, Oct 12 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac confirmed Tuesday he would visit Libya later this year in another sign of the North African state's rehabilitation following its decision to give up weapons of mass destruction programmes.  

"I will visit Libya before the end of the year," Chirac told reporters during a stopover in Hong Kong, without giving further details.  

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Tripoli earlier this month for talks with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to pave the way for Chirac's trip, which would be the first by a French president in over two decades.  

It also follows the European Union's decision on Monday to lift an 18-year-old arms embargo on Libya.  

Chirac, in Hong Kong at the end of a four-day tour of China in which he signed billions of dollars worth of trade deals, said the stage had been set for a visit to the former pariah state.  

"We had one precondition that had to be met, the issue of the French flight, which has been settled," he told reporters, referring to Libya's acceptance of responsibility for the bombing of a French airliner over Niger in 1989 that claimed 170 lives.  

Under the deal, Libya agreed to pay one million dollars per victim.  

Sanctions were imposed on Tripoli because of its alleged role in state-sponsored terrorism, including the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people, mostly Americans and Britons were killed when a PanAm flight was blown-up over Scotland.  

The EU had eased sanctions against Tripoli in 1999 but maintained a series of restrictive measures on key products, notably military equipment, which Libya has sought in order to keep a better check on its borders.  

The sanctions were lifted Monday under pressure from Italy, which wants to help Tripoli fight illegal immigration.  

Rome considers Libya a major hub for clandestine migrants from African countries and has already signed cooperation agreements to help the Libyan authorities combat the problem.  

The EU move comes amid a rapid loosening of sanctions and a thaw in relations since last year, when Tripoli took responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay 2.7 billion dollars in compensation.  

The rapprochement then gathered steam with Libya's surprise decision in December to renounce and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction under US, British and international supervision.  

Last month US President George W. Bush removed most US economic sanctions on Libya, clearing the way for huge compensation payments to the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing.  

The restrictions were removed after Libya addressed concerns over its weapons programs, but Tripoli remains on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, the US State Department said.  

The EU celebrated its restored ties with Libya notably when Kadhafi visited Brussels in April, his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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