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Russia FM in Libya for nuclear talks

 ec 23, 2007
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks in Libya on Sunday as the longtime pariah state consolidated its return to the international fold.

Lavrov had been expected to offer Russian help for Libya's plans to develop a civil nuclear power programme, barely four years after it renounced efforts to develop a non-conventional arsenal in a move that launched its rapprochement with the West.

But after talks with his Libyan counterpart Abdelrahman Shalgham, the Russian chief diplomat made no specific announcement on nuclear energy.

He said only that a number of projects in energy and other fields were being discussed between the two governments.

"I am satisfied with these negotiations," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

"The two sides expressed their sincere desire to overcome the hiatus of the past few years which flew in the face of the long tradition of cooperation between Russia and Libya, above all in the economic and commercial sphere.

"The Russian-Libyan Business Council has selected a number of projects in the energy, transport, construction, housing and rail transport fields," he said.

The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Lavrov as saying that several contracts had already been signed and more were in the pipeline.

"All of that has been completed through the efforts of the two governments aimed at concluding agreements in the investment protection field ... and other areas including military and technical cooperation," he said.

When Russia announced Lavrov's visit on Wednesday, it said it was "ready to help Libya realise its enduring right to attain civil nuclear (energy)".

Libya renounced its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction four years ago this month in a move that began a slow rapprochement with the West.

Libya has since consolidated relations with all the key Western powers, sparking intense competition to boost business with one of Africa's main oil and gas exporters.

France earlier this month announced plans to sell nuclear reactors to Libya and President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed Kadhafi for a five-day visit to Paris.

That visit drew fierce protests from human rights groups as well as senior politicians who accused Sarkozy of bestowing international respectability on a government that had long been a pariah.


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