Chirac to visit Libya "very soon"

20th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 19 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac is to visit Libya "very soon," Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanim said Monday during a visit to Paris.

PARIS, April 19 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac is to visit Libya "very soon," Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanim said Monday during a visit to Paris.

Chirac's office, however, said the trip had only been agreed to "in principle" and that no date had yet been fixed.

"President Chirac has informed us that he will undertake a visit to Libya very soon, God willing," Ghanim told reporters after an hour-long meeting the French leader.

In early March Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam Kadhafi, personally invited Chirac to make a trip.

On March 25 British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Tripoli to shake hands with Kadhafi and express hope that "we can build a new relationship" after the Libyan leader had undertaken to renounce its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has in the past year worked to erase its pariah status in the world, notably by agreeing massive pay-outs to the families of passengers killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland and a 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger.

Those moves have earned it a lifting of UN economic sanctions and put Kadhafi, back on the path towards international respectability.

Ghanim is on an official visit to France to relaunch cooperation in the political, cultural and economic fields between France and his oil-rich country.

Relations came to a virtual standstill after the September 1989 bombing of a French UTA airline DC-10 in which 170 people died. Tripoli has now agreed to pay 170 million dollars to the families of the victims, thereby making possible a normalisation of relations.

"After the settlement of the UTA dispute, it has been possible to relaunch relations between France and Libya on a new footing," a French presidential source said.

"This visit represents an important first step in the normalisation and deepening of our bilateral relations."

Ghanim signed Monday a number of agreements relating to tourism, training and scientific cooperation, and agreed Libya would pay a EUR 44.4 million (USD 52.8 million) debt owed to the French export-credit guarantee body Coface.

He is accompanied by Abdallah al-Badri, president of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and is due to meet representatives of the French oil company TotalElfFina and visit the Airbus aircraft factory at Toulouse in southwest France on Wednesday before returning to Libya.

He said he wanted to "thank the French president for the position of principle he had adopted in respect of Palestine and Iraq."

© AFP

                                                               Subject: French news

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