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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Libya 'wants EU ties for medics'
Five of the medics at the Libyan high court (file image from 31 October 2006)
The imprisonment of the medics caused an international outcry
Libya wants renewed ties with the EU as part of any deal to free six medics convicted of infecting hundreds of children with HIV, diplomats say.

An EU delegation is in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, aiming to broker a deal to free the five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor.

The six, who have always denied the charges, had death sentences commuted to life in prison last week.

Libya is also said to be seeking more funds to treat the infected children.

The government in Bulgaria wants the medics to be allowed to return home.

But the EU is reported to be unwilling to agree any compensation deal that appears to gives the impression that it accepts the six medics are guilty.

'Very tough'

Cecilia Sarkozy, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is in Tripoli accompanying the EU's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

She is said to have met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Sunday evening.

Five of the medics at the Libyan high court (file image from 31 October 2006)
1999: 19 Bulgarian medics and a Palestinian doctor are arrested at a Benghazi hospital after an outbreak of HIV/Aids among children. 13 are later freed
May 2004: Libya convicts and sentences five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor for infecting children with HIV. A Bulgarian doctor is freed
Dec 2005: Libyan Supreme Court overturns the convictions and orders a retrial
Dec 2006: Medics sentenced to death a second time
Feb 2007: Medics appeal to the Libyan Supreme Court
June 2007: Top EU officials hold talks in Libya to try to secure medics' release
11 July 2007: Libya's Supreme Court upholds death sentences

Mr Sarkozy was also reported to be closely involved in efforts to free the six, despite some criticism from domestic opponents, who accused him of effectively hijacking years of patient work by other EU nations.

"What I know is that it's very tough. This has been going on for eight-and-a-half years," Mr Sarkozy said in France.

But Bulgaria's Foreign Minister, Ivailo Kalfin, speaking in Brussels, told the AFP news agency that the decision on whether to free the six was now "purely political".

"If the Libyans show goodwill enough, the transfer can be done very quickly."

Bulgaria has granted citizenship to the Palestinian doctor so that he may also benefit from any deal to transfer the medics to Bulgaria.

The six have been imprisoned in Libya since 1999, after being accused and then convicted of deliberately spreading HIV in a children's hospital. They say torture was used to extract their confessions.

Foreign experts say the infections started before the medics arrived at the hospital, and are more likely to have been a result of poor hygiene.

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