France launches inquiry into medics' release

12th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - French deputies on Thursday set up a commission of inquiry into whether six Bulgarian medics jailed on charges of infecting children with AIDS in Libya were freed in exchange for French military aid.

12 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - French deputies on Thursday set up a commission of inquiry into whether six Bulgarian medics jailed on charges of infecting children with AIDS in Libya were freed in exchange for French military aid.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Moamer Kadhafi

The commission is to hear testimony from top aides to President Nicolas Sarkozy to shed light on negotiations that led to the release in July of the five nurses and Palestinian-born doctor after eight years in prison.

Sarkozy has rejected opposition calls for first lady Cecilia Sarkozy to come before the commission and explain her role as the president's special envoy to Tripoli.

"Cecilia did an absolutely remarkable job. But if someone has to be held accountable, then it should be me. I'm the one who is responsible," Sarkozy said last month.

The first lady told a newspaper last month that she held face-to-face negotiations with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli to persuade him to free the nurses whom she later accompanied home to Sofia in July.

The Socialist opposition in parliament has questioned whether the medics' release and a military cooperation agreement with France announced the following day were linked.

The government has denied any tit-for-tat with Tripoli, with Cecilia saying in the newspaper interview that she only offered medical assistance to a local hospital treating the AIDS-infected children.

Socialist MP Pierre Moscovici, who is due to lead the 30-member commission, has said that Kadhafi may be called to testify at the inquiry which is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

"We will hear any person who could help the commission form a judgement and help shed light on the conditions that led to the release of the Bulgarian nurses," said Moscovici, adding: "And I do mean any person."

Details of an 11-point defence accord published in the government gazette this week showed that France was ready to sell military vehicles of all types, ships, air defence systems as well as surveillance equipment to Libya.

It also mentions possible joint military manoeuvres and the training of special military units, special forces and border patrol units.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who signed the accord with his Libyan counterpart Abdelrahman Shalgam, told parliament that it did not commit France to come to the defence of Libya in the event of an attack.

Instead, the accord "lists the areas of possible cooperation and does not single out one sector," said Kouchner.

"It will be up to business leaders, future Libyan partners and the state to examine possible projects case by case, with a view to authorizing them or rejecting them," he said.

Kouchner also confirmed that a memorandum on civilian nuclear cooperation was reached but he described it as a "first step" and that any plans for nuclear assistance would be submitted to the UN IAEA watchdog for approval.

"Libya has returned to the international fold, this is good news," said Kouchner, adding that he was "proud" that "France has contributed to this in a decisive manner."

AFP

Subject: French news

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