Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

French first lady in Libya to discuss imprisoned medics

AP AND AFP , PARIS AND TRIPOLI

French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy was in Libya on Sunday for a meeting with leader Muammar Qaddafi to firm up details on the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor imprisoned in the North African country, French media reported.

A story on Le Point newsmagazine's Web site on Sunday said Cecilia Sarkozy and Claude Gueant, chief of staff to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left on Sunday morning for Libya "with the greatest discretion" on board the French presidential jet.

Libyan officials confirmed that Cecilia Sarkozy met with Qaddafi on Sunday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, would not elaborate, but confirmed that President Sarkozy was also expected to visit the country tomorrow. Officials from the Elysee palace declined to comment on the matter.

It was Cecilia Sarkozy's second visit to Libya in two weeks, after she and Gueant made an initial trip to the country on July 12, meeting with Qaddafi and the five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with HIV. They also met with some of the children and their families.

Libya accused the six of deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV. The medics, jailed since 1999, deny infecting the children and say their confessions were extracted under torture. Their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment last week.

Bulgaria made an official request last Thursday for Tripoli to repatriate the medics to serve their sentences in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Tripoli has made a new demand from EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who has been seeking the release of the six.

In overnight talks, Libyan officials presented her with conditions for the release, a diplomatic source said.

Libya's foreign ministry had sought EU guarantees for the "complete standardization of Libya's relations with the countries of the European Union at all levels," the source said.

The ministry also repeated an earlier request that the EU provide treatment for the HIV-infected children, the source said.

The latest demands come after a deal was hammered out giving the families of each HIV victim about US$1 million.

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