Sarkozy signs cooperation agreements with Libya

26th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

TRIPOLI, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy left Libya on Thursday after a brief visit in which he held talks with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and clinched deals on civilian nuclear and defence cooperation.

TRIPOLI, July 26, 2007 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy left Libya on Thursday after a brief visit in which he held talks with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and clinched deals on civilian nuclear and defence cooperation.

The visit is being seen as a sign of the normalisation of ties between Libya and the European Union after the release of six foreign medics whose death sentence for infecting children with the AIDS virus was commuted.

During Wednesday's meeting between Kadhafi and Sarkozy, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner signed a raft of agreements, including for a nuclear energy project that will turn sea water into drinking water.

The two ministers also signed accords relating to defence cooperation, cultural, scientific and technical assistance and cooperation in the field of research.

The deals came a day after Tripoli's release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor who had been held in Libya since 1999 accused of deliberately infecting children with the virus that causes AIDS.

France played a key role, along with senior EU negotiators, in securing the releases but Sarkozy denied this had anything to do with France entering into accords with Libya.

"There is no link," he told reporters Wednesday night, adding however, "If the nurses had not been released, I would not have come."

Sarkozy said that Libya had a uranium stock of 1,600 tonnes dating from its nuclear weapons programme that it abandoned in 2003.

The French president also announced at a press conference that France would with the Libyans do prospecting work for further deposits of uranium in the south of the country near the Niger border.

French presidential aide Claude Gueant too denied there was a link between France's foray into Libya and the release of the medics, which he said had been made possible "through renewed co-operation both between France and Libya and between the European Union and Libya."

"It is a strong political signal which signifies that countries which comply with international regulations on nuclear energy, such as Libya, can acquire equipment they need for civilian purposes," he said.

Gueant, along with Sarkozy's wife Cecilia, joined European Union officials in Tripoli earlier in the week to press Libya to release the medics, held since 1999.

The medics were flown to Sofia on Tuesday aboard a French government jet after being released by the Libyan authorities. They were then granted a pardon by Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov, ending an eight-year ordeal.

The pardons were angrily condemned by the Libyan government, which Wednesday delivered a formal protest to senior Bulgarian diplomat in Tripoli complaining of what it said was Sofia's non-compliance with an extradition treaty signed between the two countries in 1984.

Observers saw Sarkozy's determination to see the medics released as evidence he wants to boost ties with oil-rich Libya.

He and his wife were accused in the European press of stealing the credit after EU negotiator Benita Ferrero-Waldner had done much of the hard bargaining.

Sarkozy left Libya to pay a visit to Senegal.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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