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Gaddafi seeks Russia energy pact

Dmitry Medvedev and Muammar Gaddafi (1 November 2008)
Russia said energy and foreign policy were the main points of discussion

The Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, has said he hopes to increase energy ties with Russia, during his first visit to Moscow since the Soviet era.

Col Gaddafi said closer co-operation between the two major gas and oil producers was "particularly important".

Correspondents say Russia wants Libya to support its plans for a cartel of gas-producing nations, similar to Opec.

It has also been reported that the two countries are negotiating a civilian nuclear co-operation agreement.

Under the deal, Russia would help Libya design, develop and operate nuclear research reactors and provide fuel, Libyan media said.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham and state media said Russia's atomic energy agency and the Libyan Committee for Nuclear Energy had already signed the accord, but a spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said discussions were still under way.

'Fruitful' talks

Col Gaddafi held separate meetings with President Dmitry Medvedev and with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the start of his first visit to Russian since 1985.

Co-operation between our two countries in the oil and gas areas is particularly important in the present situation
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi

The Kremlin gave no details other than to say that energy, and questions of co-ordination in foreign policy, had been the main themes.

"Libya and the Russian Federation are major producers of oil and gas and we included in our delegation the chiefs of our national oil company to discuss questions of co-ordination with their Russian colleagues," the Libyan leader told reporters before the talks with Mr Medvedev.

"Co-operation between our two countries in the oil and gas areas is particularly important in the present situation."

Col Gaddafi noted that previously relations between the two countries had mainly focused on military and diplomatic contacts.

"There was virtually no co-operation in civilian sectors," he added.

A Russian source described Saturday's talks as "fruitful".

Russia is reported to be hoping to persuade Libya to back its plans for a gas-producing cartel that would include Algeria, Iran, Qatar and several Central Asian nations. Such an organisation would strengthen Moscow's ability to control Europe's energy supply.

Prior to the visit, Russian media had speculated that there might also be discussion of further Russian arms sales to Libya, and one report suggested Libya might offer Russia the opportunity to open a naval base in Benghazi.

Russian warships in Libya, October 2008
Russian ships docked in the Libyan port of Benghazi in October

Russia has only one naval base operating in a foreign country - in Sevastopol in Ukraine. But Ukraine's president has made clear he would like that closed when Russia's lease is up in 2017.

Last month, Russian warships docked in Libya before taking part in joint naval exercises with the Venezuelan navy.

The move came six months after Mr Putin visited Libya, during which he wrote off billions of dollars of Libyan debt, in exchange for multi-billion dollar business deals, including a contract with Russian Railways and another with Gazprom.

There has also been speculation that the Kremlin was hoping to press the Libyan leader over potential arms deals. Col Gaddafi is reportedly in the market for air defence systems, fighter jets, tanks and combat helicopters, as well as service contracts for its ageing Soviet-built arsenal.

In keeping with his habit on foreign visits, the Libyan leader pitched a Bedouin tent in the garden of the Kremlin, the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says. A barbecue grill was set up in front.

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