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French Version

Libya - German leader hypes business in rehabilitated Libya

Schroeder may seek more assurances from Gadhafi on terrorism

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder travels to Libya on Thursday to add impetus to the former pariah state's transition to democracy and finalize several major business deals.

Schroeder, who is accompanied by a large business delegation on a trip that will include a stop in Algeria, will seek assurances from Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi that he is a genuine part of the international war on terrorism.

"It is important to us in these talks that Libya gives a wider commitment to the war on terrorism," a government official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said the visit, Schroeder's first to Libya, "marks a new beginning in bilateral relations," born from Gadhafi's recent decision to compensate the victims of a Berlin nightclub bombing 18 years ago.

"We are very happy about this positive development, and we're hoping to be able to add momentum to it," the official said, ahead of a late night meeting between the two leaders after Schroeder arrives in Tripoli.

"We want this evolution to be irreversible." The trip comes during a week in which the European Union lifted an arms embargo against Libya, and follows a trip there by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last weekend.

It will be marked above all by financial rewards.

Some 26 business leaders, including representatives of Sie-mens, Lufthansa, and construction giants Hochtief and Bilfinger Berger, seek to clinch oil and gas, infrastructure, telecommunications and tourism deals in a country desperate to attract investment and modernize its industry.

"It is clear that the visit is of great interest to the German business community," the government official said.

Libya is among Germany's biggest suppliers of oil, after Russia, Norway and Britain, meeting 11 percent of its import needs, and according to a senior official in Berlin it has "high quality oil and gas reserves."

Tripoli's oil reserves, proven at 36 billion barrels but with huge further potential, are also highly attractive to foreign oil firms because of their low cost of recovery and Libya's proximity to European markets.

The meeting will also see final preparations made for a German-Libyan business forum to be held in Tripoli on Nov. 28-30.

Schroeder's trip was finalized only two weeks ago, after Libya transferred the first tranche of compensation worth millions of dollars for the victims of the La Belle discotheque bombing in 1986.

The attack on the night club, which was a favorite haunt of U.S. servicemen in what was then West Berlin, killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman and wounded more than 250 people.

Under an agreement reached on Sept. 3, compensation will be paid to 168 mainly German survivors of the attack and to the family of the Turkish woman.

Tripoli has also paid damages to the relatives of people killed in the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and it reached agreements in January over a French airliner blown up a year later.

Libya was welcomed back into the international community late last year after announcing it was abandoning attempts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Beirut,10 18 2004
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The Daily Star
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