Noriega extradited to France: officials

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The United States extradited former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega to France Monday to face money-laundering charges after years of legal wrangling, US and French officials said.

Noriega was placed aboard an Air France jet in Miami for the flight back to France escorted by French prison officials, a source close the operation said in Paris.

CNN and CBS televisions aired video images that they said showed Noriega being led from a van into Miami airport.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday signed the extradition order, a State Department spokesman said.

"Now that all judicial challenges to Noriega's extradition have been resolved, the Secretary of State issued a surrender warrant for his extradition to France," said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman.

In Paris, a spokesman for the French Justice ministry said the extradition was underway.

"France had been notified of this extradition two weeks ago," said spokesman Guillaume Didier, in confirming the order signed earlier Monday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Noriega's lawyer, Frank Rubino, told AFP in Miami that he had not been informed.

"Neither the State Department or the Justice Department has the courtesy to call me and tell me that the order was signed or if the general Noriega has been taking away," he said.

The US Supreme Court threw out a bid in March by Noriega to halt his extradition to France, where he is wanted on money-laundering charges, closing the last legal avenue for the former military strongman to challenge his extradition.

Noriega, 75, was overthrown and captured during the US invasion of the central American nation in 1989, dubbed Operation Just Cause.

© 2010 AFP

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