Paris Strengthens Military Ties with Libya
Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
PARIS - France is intensifying contacts with Libya, introducing military officers as part of a "strategic cooperation pact" between the two countries.
The move followed a visit to Libya early this month by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who said the treaty signed in November will consist of "all aspects of cooperation."
Under the pact, France will create a better air cover over Libyan territory with sales of aircraft and combat helicopters, and improve Libya's arsenal, much of it bought from France about 30 years ago.
The Libyan hardware was "in a poor state," French officials said, largely from neglect because of the effect of sanctions, lifted recently by European countries.
France also hopes for industrial contracts, pointing out that Libya "has sizable needs and sizable funds at its disposal."
Libya, the owner of Africa's largest proven oil reserves, recently emerged from international isolation. It has accumulated an estimated $20 billion in its coffers, largely because of soaring oil prices.
Although several French companies are active in Libya, Italy and Germany account for an estimated 32 percent of Western sales there. The French companies include the Vinci construction group, the telecommunications manufacturer Alcatel and the Alston engineering group.
Libya has granted 11 out of 15 recent oil exploration contracts to U. …