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Sarkozy denies sale of reactor to Libya
Yaniv Salama-Scheer
08/14/2007
President's wife to be questioned over diplomatic role in alleged nuke deal.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy has denied a report in the daily Le Parisien that France will sell Libya a nuclear reactor. "It's false, it's false," Sarkozy told reporters while on vacation in the US. "There is not even a question about selling a nuclear reactor to Libya." According to the report, Tripoli is set to purchase a third generation European Pressurized Water Reactor after clinching a deal with France on civilian nuclear cooperation. The plant would be used for desalination, the Libyans said. Spokesmen from Areva, the French firm that was contacted by the Libyans, have denied there is any agreement to send Libya a reactor, saying the two countries were in engaged in "political and diplomatic discussions" and that it was not an appropriate time for "industry and commerce." The nuclear cooperation between the two countries was part of an "aid package" the two countries worked out over the past 18 months that also includes French-made Milan antitank missiles and advanced communications systems. Sarkozy has taken heat from the international community and from his domestic opposition over the diplomatic track with Libya, which resulted in the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from Libyan jails. The day after their release last month, which was brokered by Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferraro-Waldner, Sarkozy paid a visit to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, where the weapons deal was announced. The medical personnel were convicted in Libya of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV. They spent eight years in prison, and several have described electrical shock, rape, attacks by dogs and other torture during their incarceration. At the time, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed dissatisfaction over the secret diplomacy between France and Libya, saying the other EU states should have been kept in the loop. The greatest potential for answers is expected to come from a government inquiry into Cecilia Sarkozy's diplomatic shuttling that comes at the request of the French Socialist Party. The opposition party has requested that she appear before a government committee to explain her role as the presidents' special envoy. "If we want to know the price that was paid, and discover the secret of this covert diplomacy between France and Libya that has been hidden from the whole world, then we must interrogate [Cecilia] Sarkozy and [Claude] Guant," the secretary general of the President's Office, who accompanied Sarkozy on her trip to Libya.
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