Gadhafi's deals with France fire up critics
December, it seems, is a great time to shop in Paris. Moammar Gadhafi, the newly redeemed leader of Libya, came to town this week loaded...
The Washington Post
PARIS — December, it seems, is a great time to shop in Paris.
Moammar Gadhafi, the newly redeemed leader of Libya, came to town this week loaded with petrodollars for a holiday shopping spree, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy was an eager merchant.
To give a more authentic Middle Eastern-bazaar effect to the whole affair, Gadhafi set up a Bedouin tent in the gardens of the official guest residence, the 19th-century Hotel Marigny, next to the presidential Elysée Palace.
Human-rights groups and politicians lit into Sarkozy, accusing him of selling French principles down the river and seeming to ignore Gadhafi's poor human-rights record in exchange for $14.7 billion worth of deals. The contracts provide for Libya to buy 21 Airbus jetliners, at least one civilian nuclear reactor, more than a dozen Rafale fighter jets, 35 helicopters, armored vehicles, air-defense radar gear and other useful items.
"Some say that Gadhafi's attitude in his country has not changed, that he does not respect human rights and still supports terrorism," said Khadija Mohsen-Finan, a North Africa specialist at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris. Others, she said, accuse Sarkozy of being "a cynic with his realpolitik and his willingness to make money from Libya."
But Mohsen-Finan said that in her view, Gadhafi gave up "the core of his diplomacy" when he relinquished his weapons of mass destruction and renounced terrorism. And Sarkozy has put commercial interest at the top of his agenda, she added, after realizing that France was late to invest in Libya in comparison with Germany and Italy.
"These two new types of diplomacy will redefine a new link between France and Libya," she said.
The French government said it was all business as usual. "Libya has become a client like any other," presidential spokesman David Martinon told LCI television.
Sarkozy also has been disparaged recently for signing $30 billion worth of deals on a trip to China while saying little about that country's human-rights problems and for rushing to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin after his party's victory in a parliamentary election last week that many people in the West were calling undemocratic and unfair.
Sarkozy told reporters that, after his first meeting with Gadhafi on Monday, he had implored his guest to "make progress on the path of human rights."
Gadhafi begged to differ.
"President Sarkozy and I did not discuss these subjects," he said in an interview aired Tuesday on France 2 television.
Signaling their disapproval of the visit, about half the 80 lawmakers invited to a ceremony honoring Gadhafi at the National Assembly on Tuesday boycotted the event.
Bristling at continued criticism of his rights record, Gadhafi fired back during a speech Tuesday at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's headquarters, accusing his European hosts of hypocrisy.
"They brought us here like cattle to do hard and dirty work, and then they throw us to live on the outskirts of towns, and when we claim our rights, the police beat us," Gadhafi said in an apparent reference to the suburbs around Paris where many minorities live in low-income public housing that has been the scene of sporadic mob violence for the past several years.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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