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Gaddafi goes shopping for arms in France

RIA Novosti

10/12/2007 15:25 PARIS, December 10 (RIA Novosti) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi started a five-day official visit to France on Monday, a spokesman for the Elysee Palace said.

French media say his visit will focus on arms supplies, in particular the purchase of Rafale fighters, manufactured by France's largest aircraft maker Dassault Aviation. Paris also intends to help Libya in building a nuclear reactor.

France also expects to sign an array of contracts with Libya in the realm of energy, healthcare, and agriculture.

Gaddafi's visit to Paris, his first in the past 30 years, is to run December 10-15. He is to meet twice with French President Nicolas Sarkozy - on December 10 and 12 at the Elysee Palace.

Sarkozy invited Gaddafi to Paris after meeting him in Tripoli on July 25, a day after the release of six Bulgarian medics from a Libyan jail, a case in which his former wife, Cecily, was highly instrumental.

The six medics had been imprisoned in the North African country since 1999 over the infection of over 400 children with the HIV virus.

The visit comes as Libya attempts to integrate itself more closely into the international community. Last year the country gave up its quest for nuclear arms and renounced nuclear terrorism.

Libya was bombed by U.S. planes in 1986 after then-president Ronald Reagan ordered the strikes in retaliation for the country's alleged involvement of a bombing of a nightclub in Berlin. Two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman lost their lives in the nightclub blast.

The Middle East country was also alleged to have taken part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, including 11 people in Lockerbie. Libya formally accepted responsibility for the blast in 2003.

Libya currently represents 0.1% of French exports and 0.45% of imports. French imports from Libya in 2006 came to 1.9 billion euros. However, with rich oil and gas reserves, Libya is likely to become a very important partner for France.

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