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Libya And France Sign 168-Million-Euro Arms Deal

MILAN (Missile d'Infanterie Leger Antichar) is a portable medium range, 2km class, anti-tank weapon.
by Afaf Geblawi
Tripoli (AFP) Aug 02, 2007
Libya signed a contract with France on Thursday to buy Milan anti-tank missiles worth 168 million euros (230 million dollars), in the first such deal a European embargo was lifted, a Libyan official said. The contract was signed with European missile manufacturer MBDA, the world's number one maker of guided weapons systems, the official told AFP. MBDA is jointly owned by BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica.

It was the first arms agreement with a European country since the lifting in 2004 of a European embargo on weapons sales to Libya, the source added.

Libya also signed a contract with EADS for a Tetra radio communications system in a separate deal worth 128 million euros (175 million dollars), another official said under cover of anonymity.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son, Saif ul-Islam, told Le Monde newspaper in comments published on Wednesday that Tripoli's release of six foreign medics last week had paved the way for the signing of major arms deals with France.

Seif al-Islam said at the time that Libya was looking to purchase Milan missiles as part of a wide-ranging defence deal.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who travelled to Tripoli a day after the medics' release, denied any quid pro quo for the release of the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted in an AIDS case.

During his visit, France and Libya signed a memorandum pledging to cooperate on nuclear energy projects including for water desalination, as well as a military agreement whose contents were not made public.

The French presidency said no arms contracts were signed.

Apart from contracts with France, a deal with Britain that could see a Libyan convicted for the Lockerbie plane bombing extradited home was also key to the release of the medics, according to Seif al-Islam.

Former Libyan secret agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, who was jailed for the 1988 bombing of a US airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland won the right to a new appeal in June after a court ruled he may have been wrongly convicted.

The Libyan leader's son told Le Monde that he hoped Megrahi would soon be sent back to Libya.

"We will soon have an extradition agreement with Britain," he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding on an extradition deal signed with Libya during a visit by Prime Minister Tony Blair in May.

Britain's Foreign Office immediately denied any link.

"There is no link between Mr. Megrahi and the release of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medics," a spokesman told AFP, adding that there is no extradition agreement between Britain and the north African country.

The spokesman noted that Blair "signed a memorandum of understanding with the Libyan government on looking and exploring further judicial cooperation."

On the French link, Seif al-Islam said: "With the French, we have been in negotiations for a long time. We asked Sarkozy to accelerate things. Now that the nurses' case is settled, a golden opportunity has arisen."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Washington Seeking To Calm Mideast With Arms Sales
Brussels (AFP) July 30, 2007
US plans to extend huge military aid deals to Middle East and Gulf states is a high-risk attempt to give Saudi Arabia and others the muscle to calm the region's problems, military experts said Monday. "The failure of the American project for a democratic greater Middle East, confounded in the battle for Iraq, has forced Washington to try to salvage the situation by distributing military aid all over the place," said Joseph Henrotin, editor-in-chief of the French Defence and International Security periodical.

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