Sarkozy denies weapons deals to Libya

Gaddafi's son says secret deal allowed for the release of Bulgarian, Palestinian prisoners.

According to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, no military accords or weapons packages were part of the deals struck between France and Libya following the release of five Bulgarian and one Palestinian nurse from Libya last week. Sarkozy was responding to claims made by Saif Gaddafi el-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to the effect that Libya had brokered military aid from France, consisting of French made Milan anti-tank missiles, as well as a joint Franco-Libyan manufacturing of military equipment. The younger Gaddafi made his claims in an interview with the French daily Le Monde, which he requested to "clarify certain points," regarding the deals made by the president's wife, Cecilia, and EU external affairs commissioner Benita Ferraro-Waldner. 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 held a high importance 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 Gaddafi, 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, but insisted that France arranged the $461 million that was paid to the families on July 17th, and insisted 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 city, which is 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 on Wednesday that the sum had been paid by the emir of Qatar, who helped Sarkozy in brokering the nurses' 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 that killed 270 people. "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 French dealings with Libya have angered some EU states, particularly Germany, who have 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 rather wanted that the European partners had been keep informed and been part of the process," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, and added that the sequence of events could have been "better chosen."