French President Nicolas Sarkozy played no role in negotiating the sale of anti-tank missiles to Libya, a French presidential aide and an executive of European defense group EADS said Saturday.
The arms deal - a sign that Tripoli is shedding its status as a pariah with the West - has raised concerns with France's Socialist opposition, which has demanded to know whether Sarkozy offered up a weapons contract to entice Libya into freeing six medics serving life sentences there for allegedly infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV.
The arms sale was never addressed during the Elysee Palace's negotiations to free the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, Sarkozy's chief of staff, Claude Gueant, told Le Figaro newspaper. He said the weapons deal was negotiated separately by EADS.
"I repeat that the subject never came up in our discussions on freeing the Bulgarian nurses," Gueant was quoted as saying. He added that the president's visit to Libya, soon after the medics were freed - may have helped create a "favorable climate" for the deal with EADS unit MBDA.