Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Libya to buy US$405m in arms from European firm


Libya has reached a multimillion dollar deal to buy anti-tank missiles and radio systems from the European aerospace giant EADS, in what would be the first such purchase since an arms embargo was lifted on Tripoli in 2004.

French Defense Minister Herve Morin confirmed yesterday that a letter of intent had been signed for the sale of Milan anti-tank missiles and a radio communications system worth, according to a Libyan official, 396 million euros (US$405 million).

The deal is likely to spark some controversy, coming so soon after France played a key role in brokering the release of six foreign medics sentenced to life imprisonment in Libya.

Sarkozy, who traveled to Tripoli a day after the medics' were freed, has denied any link.

But Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son, Saif ul-Islam Qaddafi, said resolution of the medics' case had paved the way for the signing of major arms contracts, and the leader of the opposition Socialist Party in France, Francois Hollande, called for a parliamentary enquiry into the deal.

"If there was no exchange, if there was no bartering, why sign a military agreement with the Qaddafi regime, which has been responsible for terrorist acts, which has been a rogue state?" he said.

The Libyan purchases were agreed with subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defense giant EADS, which is controlled by French and German interests.

EADS said in a statement yesterday that the arms deal had been secured after 18 months of negotiations and was now "waiting the signature of the Libyan client."

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