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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
France and Libya sign arms deal
A Bulgarian nurse is greeted by a relative upon arrival at Sofia airport
The deal to release the medics was concluded with French help
Libya has signed contracts with France to buy anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment worth $405m (199m), Libyan officials have said.

The arms agreement is Libya's first with a Western country since a European Union embargo was lifted in 2004.

France has confirmed the missile deal - the larger of the two.

Last month Libya agreed to release six Bulgarian medics convicted of infecting children with HIV. France denies that the move was linked to any arms deal.

Libyan officials, speaking to reporters anonymously, said Libya was purchasing Milan anti-tank missiles worth $230m and radio communications equipment worth $175m.

Both contracts were secured by subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defence giant EADS, they said.

EADS and French Defence Minister Herve Morin confirmed that the sale of the anti-tank missiles had been agreed.

The firm said the deal had been reached after 18 months of talks.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing questions over the timing of the deal with Libya, coming so soon after his government helped secure the release of the medics.

France's opposition Socialist leader Francois Hollande has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the negotiations between France and Libya.

Normalised ties

The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian-born doctor were freed on 24 July and flown to Bulgaria after years of negotiations that concluded with French mediation.

Nicolas Sarkozy (r) and Muammar Gaddafi - 25/07/2007

They were released in exchange for medical assistance and the normalisation of ties between Libya and the EU.

The following day Mr Sarkozy met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli and signed agreements on a range of issues including security, health care and immigration.

Mr Sarkozy's office has denied that any arms agreements were signed during that visit.

The six medics, who spent eight years in jail in Libya, had always maintained they were innocent, saying their confessions were extracted under torture.

They were allowed to go to Bulgaria last month, after their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. On their arrival in Bulgaria, they were pardoned by the president.

Libya began emerging from international isolation in late 2003, when it surrendered its nuclear and other banned weapons research.

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