France, Libya begin ties (Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal)
Libya Goes West?
The African country Libya has been making efforts to improve relations with the Western powers in a sustained manner after making up with the USA, the most hated country in Libya until then. On Aug 3 as apart of resolution of Bulgarian medico poison crisis last month when Libya agreed to release six Bulgarian medics convicted of infecting children with HIV. Libya has signed contracts with France in Tripoli to buy anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment worth $405m (£199m), Libyan officials have said, reports BBC. The deal to release the medics was concluded with French help. Sarkozy met Gaddafi after six Bulgarian medics were freed. France denies that the move was linked to any arms deal. With France and Libya signing the arms deal, the stage is set for Libyan-US-led West cooperation in all possible fields, including nuclear.
The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian-born doctor were freed on 24 July and flown to Bulgaria after years of negotiations that concluded with French mediation. They were released in exchange for medical assistance and the normalization of ties between Libya and the EU. Supported by the USA and other Western powers, the six medics, who spent eight years in jail in Libya, had always maintained they were innocent, saying their confessions were extracted under torture. They were allowed to go to Bulgaria last month, after their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. On their arrival in Bulgaria, they were pardoned by the president. The following day Sarkozy met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli and signed agreements on a range of issues including security, health care and immigration.
As per the reports available, Libya signed agreements with France to buy anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment worth $405m (£199m), Libyan officials have said. (Milan anti-tank missiles worth $230m and radio communications equipment worth $175m) Both contracts were secured by subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defense giant EADS, they said. The deal was executed by them amid protest from Germany, the current chair of EU against any nuclear deal with Libya. France has confirmed the missile deal - the larger of the two. The contracts were secured by subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defense giant EADS, they said. EADS and French Defense Minister Herve Morin confirmed that the sale of the anti-tank missiles had been agreed. The firm said the deal had been reached after 18 months of talks.
President Nicolas Sarkozy who won a massive mandate at the recent Presidential poll crushing the opposition parties badly, is facing questions over the timing of the deal with Libya, coming so soon after his government helped secure the release of the medics. Initially Sarkozy's office has denied that any arms agreements were signed during that visit. France’s opposition Socialist leader Francois Hollande has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the negotiations between France and Libya. Sarkozy’s office has denied that any arms agreements were signed during that visit.
France has now confirmed the missile deal - the larger of the two. Both contracts were secured by subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defense giant EADS, they said.
French Defense Minister Herve Morin confirmed that the sale of the anti-tank missiles had been agreed. The deal had been reached after 18 months of talks.
Libya began emerging from international isolation in late 2003, when it surrendered its nuclear and other banned weapons research and courted the friendship of the USA by settling the plane-bombing issue amicably.
The United States in April 2004 lifted most of its commercial sanctions on Libya, but trade restrictions with Europe remain. And soon he visited Brussels on invitation from the EU President Romano Prodi.
Libya "did its duty" in the past by supporting and training violent liberation movements around the world and was "unjustly accused of terrorism" for it, he said. But now, the time has now come to reap the fruits of this armed struggle, namely peace, stability, development," he said through a translator. "Now we are facing different or new challenges which are common enemies to all of us."
The landmark trip resulted from what the EU termed Libya's "remarkable progress" in shedding its rogue nation status, including abandoning its nuclear weapons program and settling the Pan Am and UTA airliner bombing cases by agreeing to pay relatives of the victims.
"We need to work together on peace, stability, migration, security, economic reform, and cultural cooperation," Prodi said. In the 1980s, Libya was an international pariah for its role in international terrorism. The 1988 bombing of the Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 270 people; the French UTA airliner bombing over the Niger desert killed 170 people in 1989.
Gaddafi, flanked by bodyguards on his first trip to Europe in 15 years, said Tuesday his country was open for business but cautioned the West against making him return to violence. Gaddafi, once considered one of the world's most dangerous men for sponsoring terrorism, pulled up in a white limousine at the European Commission, the European Union' executive branch, accompanied by his foreign and trade ministers.
Gaddafi seeks "full normalization" of relations and entry to the aid and trade program the EU runs with countries around the Mediterranean, including Israel.
"Gaddafi's a criminal, Gaddafi's a terrorist, Gaddafi's an assassin," said a pro-USA
Libyan living in Switzerland. Gaddafi's last trip to Europe was in 1989, when he delivered a disjointed harangue against Jews and the U.S. dollar at a summit of non-aligned nations in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Gaddafi's last trip to Europe was in 1989, when he delivered a disjointed harangue against Jews and the U.S. dollar at a summit of non-aligned nations in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
With the nuclear deal with France, a veto wielding member of UNSC-5, the state now set in Tripoli for totally revamping its foreign policy formulations tilted toward the West. If Turkey is making all efforts to enter the EU, Libya is seems to be aiming at all-West fortunes. Gaddafi seems to be keen to go all out to normalize ties with the Western powers, strained for nearly two decades and find new friends in Europe and elsewhere.
DR.ABDUL RUFF Colachal
Freelance writer, India