Friday, October 31, 2008

Back to the future: Libya offers to host Russian military base

Middle East Online

Russian military presence expected to guarantee non-aggression against North African country.

MOSCOW - Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi, who visits Moscow Friday for the first time since 1985, will offer to host a Russian naval base in his North African country, a Russian newspaper reported.

"Libya is ready to host a Russian naval military base," the Kommersant reported, citing a source close to the preparations for Gathafi's first visit here since the days of the Soviet Union.

The base could be located at the port of Benghazi, the source said.

"The Russian military presence will be a guarantee of non-aggression against Libya from the United States, which is not in a hurry to embrace Gathafi despite gestures of reconciliation," the newspaper said.

Gathafi's offer could also "ease the Kremlin's dissatisfaction" over his failure to fulfill agreements reached in April during a landmark visit to Tripoli by then-president Vladimir Putin, Kommersant said.

During the visit, Moscow agreed to cancel billions of dollars of Libyan Soviet-era debt in exchange for major contracts with Russian companies.

Those agreements included a promise by Tripoli to buy Russian arms, but "despite the agreement, Gathafi still has not bought a single tank or airplane," Kommersant reported.

Russia was also disappointed that energy-rich Libya did not agree to join a "gas OPEC" along with fellow gas exporter Qatar, Kommersant said.

Gathafi is scheduled to visit Russia from Friday to Sunday.

Relations between Russia and Libya, a former pariah state that has pushed to get back into the international fold in recent years, showed signs of significant warming this year after a long chill.

Earlier this month, a Russian warship docked in Tripoli as part of a global show of force that is to include joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela in the Caribbean in November.

In April, Russian gas giant Gazprom signed a cooperation agreement with Libya's national energy company while Russia's rail monopoly signed a 2.2-billion-euro contract to build a railway line in Libya.

Libya bought many of its weapons from Moscow during the Cold War.

No comments: