(photo credit: Associated Press)
According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, no military accords or weapons packages were part of the deals struck between France and Libya to secure the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from Libya last week.
Sarkozy was responding to claims made by Saif Gadaffi el-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi, to the effect that Libya had brokered military aid from France, consisting of French made "Milan" anti-tank missiles, as well as joint Franco-Libyan manufacturing of military equipment. The younger Gadaffi made the claims in an interview with the French daily Le Monde, which he had requested in order to "clarify certain points," regarding the deals made by the president's wife, Cecilia, and EU external affairs commissioner Benita Ferraro-Waldner.
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The agreement between Paris and Tripoli, Gaddafi said, would see "joint military exercises," along with the purchase of defense technology for "100 million euros." Gaddafi also said that the significance of the deal was highly important as it was "the first such deal between Libya and a western country," since the lifting in 2004 of the arms embargo placed on Tripoli.
Gaddafi also said that at the time of the interview, representatives from Thales and Sagem, French technology companies that manufacture military avionics systems, were currently in Libya; proof, according to Gadaffi, of good relations between the two countries. He also said that his father could possibly even go to Paris himself to sign the "contracts in question."
Gaddafi also claimed that France gave money to the families of the children who were infected with HIV. "I don't know where they found the money," he said, insisting that France had arranged the 461 million dollars that was paid to the families on July 17, and claiming that "it was not Libyan money."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied outright any financial dealings to these effects at the time of the negotiations. Officially, EU countries had agreed to provide medical assistance for the children and to help upgrade a hospital in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, where the infections first appeared .The EU also agreed to improve its ties with Libya and build a partnership that would include free trade.
One French paper surmised Wednesday that the sum had been paid by the Emir of Qatar who helped president Sarkozy in brokering the release, and that the EU was "committed" to reimbursing the Gulf state.
Furthermore, Gaddafi also said that a deal to release Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who is in jail in England for the Lockerbie bombings in 1988 in which 270 people were killed, had been finalized. "We will soon have an agreement on extradition with the United Kingdom," and explained the Libyan representatives had already been sent to London to hammer out the specifics on Megrahi's release.
The alleged French dealings with Libya have angered some EU states, particularly Germany, who has long opposed a rapprochement with Libya. German officials criticized the way the negotiations took place, and were upset by the fact that they were not properly kept up to speed by the French. "I would certainly have wanted that the European partners be keep informed and be a part of the process," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, adding that the sequence of events could have been "better chosen."