From ‘honeymoon’ to war: what US cables said about French courtship of Gaddafi

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A ‘political signal’ to French businesses

The cable mentioned the signing of an agreement between the Libyan regime and Serge Dassault, head of Dassault Group, the French civil and military aeronautics firm, for the renovation of 12 Dassault Mirage-F1 fighter planes.The very same Dassault whose jets are today bombing Libya.

That diplomatic cable also mentioned several other framework trade agreements signed during the French president's visit. For example, with French nuclear conglomerate Areva, which "expects to benefit from the warmer relations" between France and Libya, as do groups such as petrol company Total and engineering manufacturer Alstom in the transport sector, the cable noted.

Franco-Libyan commitments to build a "nuclear reactor"for water desalination and to cooperate in the civilian nuclear field were clearly closely monitored and were the subject of several US State Department reports in 2007 and 2008.

Regarding the banking sector, Ambassador Stapleton further noted that BNP-Paribas group "won a tender for the privatization of 19 percent of the capital of the Sahara Bank at a cost of 145 million euros".

According to Stapleton, Sarkozy, because of his pro-Gaddafi activism,"likely expects that his efforts will yield more benefits than former President Chirac obtained following his 2004 visit to Tripoli".

He added that "French companies have the political signal they were waiting for to move aggressively in seeking out opportunities in Libya. Sarkozy,who has publicly eschewed the notion that he intends to link France's bilateral relationships to his personal relationships with foreign leaders, probably hopes nevertheless to derive some gain from his current honeymoon with Qadhafi."

Another non-classified diplomatic cable, dated the same day, July 26th 2007, but this time written by the US embassy in Tripoli by diplomat Chris Stevens, showed that Sarkozy went to lengths to please the Libyan leader (cable n°116764). Thus, noted the cable, Gaddafi "met for several hours with Sarkozy and his delegation (which included FM Kouchner and diplomatic adviser Levitte, but not Mrs. Sarkozy) at Qadhafi's Bab Azziziya compound in Tripoli". The reference to FM Kouchner is to then-French foreign affairs minister, Bernard Kouchner.

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