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Thursday, October 19, 2006

France, Libya in Arms Talks


France is in talks with Libya about modernizing the north African country’s weapons arsenal as part of the defense cooperation deal they renewed in 2005, officials confirmed on Oct. 18.

The armament division of the French defense ministry confirmed contacts had been made and said its head of international relations, Jean-Paul Panier, had recently visited Tripoli.

Arab-language newspaper Al-Hayat on Oct. 17 quoted “informed sources in Paris and Tunis”, the Tunisian capital, as saying France and Libya had made “a big step” towards signing a series of military contracts and clinching the sale to Tripoli of around 20 French-made Airbus airplanes.

If the planes are sold at the Airbus catalogue price, the deal would cost around 1.8 billion euros.

Sources close to the defense talks told AFP the agreement under consideration was “designed essentially to enable Libya to recover the operational capacity it possessed before the international arms embargo” in place from 1986 to 2004.

The talks also dealt with the retrofitting of 38 Mirage F1 jets bought by Libya more than 25 years ago and the installation of modern anti-ship Otomat missiles on patrol boats, the sources said. Otomat missiles are maanufactured by MBDA, a joint venture created by defense firms EADS, BAe Dynamics and Alenia.

The sources declined to indicate whether the negotiations included the purchase of major new military hardware, such as the Rafale fighter jets made by Dassault or military helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter, another subsidiary of EADS.

French defense companies are expected to turn out in force for Libya’s first arms trade fair, Lavex, in Tripoli on December 4-6.
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