Mon, Jul 30, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Libya seeks Arab help with Bulgaria

AFP , TRIPOLI

Libya will seek support from the Arab League today in the row over Bulgaria's "betrayal" in pardoning the five nurses and one doctor jailed in the AIDS case.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham on Saturday denounced as a "betrayal" and illegal the pardon issued by the Bulgarian president to the six medics, who were transferred to Bulgaria from Libya last Tuesday.

"The detainees should have been detained upon their arrival [in Sofia], and not freed in this celebratory and illegal manner," Shalgham told reporters in Tripoli.

Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told the reporters that Bulgaria's actions had violated the legal procedures regarding extradition, as set out in international law and in a 1984 agreement between the two countries.

"We followed the procedure -- it is Bulgaria that betrayed us," Mahmudi said.

Shalgham meanwhile criticized European countries for "joining forces behind the criminals ... before applauding their liberation."

He denounced the "strong European pressure" exerted on Libya.

He also attacked "the humanitarian and international organizations who, instead of criticizing the liberation of the criminals, welcomed and greeted this step."

Libya has sent fellow Arab League members a memorandum calling for the group to adopt a common stand on the affair today at a meeting of representatives, Mahmudi said.

Tripoli would also plans to seek support from the African Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he said.

Held in Libya since 1999, the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor with Bulgarian citizenship were sentenced to death after being convicted of deliberately infecting 438 Libyan children with the AIDS-causing HIV virus. Fifty-six of the children later died.

Libya allowed the six to leave for Bulgaria last Tuesday, where they had been due to serve life terms in prison, but instead the six were pardoned by Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov.

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