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    Gaddafi visits Moscow for energy, military talks

    AP
    31.10.2008 - 15:08 | Son Güncelleme:

    Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrived in Russia on Friday for three days of talks expected to focus on boosting energy ties and arms trade between the two Cold War allies.

    Gaddafi last visited Moscow 23 years ago during the Soviet times.

     

    Russia has moved earlier this year to bolster relations with Libya, agreeing to write off $4.5 billion in Libya’s debt for Soviet-era arms supplies in exchange for lucrative business deals.

     

    Vladimir Putin visited Libya in April when he was still Russia’s president, wrapping up several agreements, including a 2.2 billion euro contract for state-owned Russian Railways in Libya.

     

    At the same time, Russia’s state gas monopoly Gazprom also signed a deal to develop six prospective oil and gas fields in Libya.

     

    A Kremlin official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks said that Russia and Libya could cooperate in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but would not give details.

     

    He said that negotiations will also focus on prospective Russian arms supplies to Libya, which was a major customer for Soviet weapons during Cold War times, purchasing several hundred of combat jets, thousands of tanks and other hardware.

     

    Military and other ties withered after the Soviet collapse, and Russia is now facing stiff competition from European arms makes who have been courting Libya amid a thaw in Tripoli’s relations with the West.

     

    Libya has dramatically improved ties with the West after Gaddafi announced in 2003 that he was dismantling his nuclear weapons program. The same year,

    Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, and agreed to pay compensation to families.

     

    Since then, Western countries have stepped up oil and other investments with Libya, and European arms makers have begun competing for Libya’s orders.

     

    Russia’s business daily Kommersant said Friday that Libya has dragged its feet on signing business deals after the debt forgiveness agreement was announced.

     

    It said there was little progress in talks over prospective weapons deals and industrial projects.

     

    It added, however, that Libya may offer Russian ships to use its port of Benghazi - a move that will soothe Russian irritation over a slow pace of progress in weapons talks. Russia has sought to revive a naval presence in the Mediterranean which it had in the Soviet times and eyed its allies for potential bases.

     

    In the Libyan arms market, Russia also faced competition from Ukraine, whose numerous weapons plants could offer cheaper versions of the same Soviet-designed weapons. Gaddafi may visit Ukraine after his trip to Russia - a visit the daily Vremya Novostei said could strengthen Libya’s hand in bargaining with Russia over weapons price.

     

    Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Libya has expressed interest in buying aircraft, air defense systems and navy ships, RIA Novosti reported Friday.

     

    The Interfax news agency said that a tentative agreement on supplies of Russian weapons worth more than $2 billion could be signed during Gaddafi’s trip to Moscow.

     

    It said Libya wants to purchase S-300, Tor-M1 and Buk-M1 air defense missile systems, two squadrons of Su-30 and Mig-29 fighter jets, several dozen combat helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers and a diesel submarine.

     

    Interfax said that Russia also plans to sign contracts to modernize aging Soviet-era weapons in Libyan arsenals which lack spare parts.

     

    Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to meet with Gaddafi over a dinner Friday and hold more talks in the Kremlin on Saturday.

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