Libya leader to discuss hosting Russian base

13:40, 31 October 2008
World
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"Russia`s military presence will become a guarantee of non-aggression from US..."

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, starting his first visit to post-Soviet Russia on Friday, will discuss opening a Russian naval base in Libya to counterbalance U.S. interests in the region, a newspaper reported, according to Reuters.

Gaddafi, who last visited then Soviet Russia in 1985, is expected to discuss purchases of Russian arms and energy cooperation during his three-day trip.

The business daily Kommersant, quoting a source involved in preparing Gaddafi`s visit, said "the colonel has saved the good news for his visit which will mollify the Kremlin`s resentment" at a lack of deals with post-sanctions Libya.

"During these talks the colonel intends to raise the issue of opening a base for Russia`s navy in the Libyan port of Benghazi," the paper wrote.

The Kremlin and Russian naval officials could not be reached for comment.

"In line with the Libyan leader`s plan, Russia`s military presence will become a guarantee of non-aggression from the United States which, despite numerous conciliatory gestures, is not in a hurry to embrace Colonel Gaddafi," Kommersant said.

For years, Washington considered Gaddafi a supporter of terrorism. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Tripoli in 1992 to pressure it to hand over two Libyan suspects in the 1998 bombing of a Pan Am airliner that killed 270 people, and lifted them about a decade later.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Gaddafi in Libya, the first such visit in 55 years. The trip was intended to end of decades of enmity, five years after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction programme.

After a decade of strong economic growth, Russia is keen to project its power. Russian warships led by a nuclear-powered missile cruiser docked in Libya this month on their way to Venezuela to take part in joint naval exercises.

Libya has also hosted a Russian frigate sent to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Sevastopol, on Ukraine`s Crimean peninsula, is Russia`s only functioning naval base abroad.

Russian media have reported that Gaddafi may be looking to buy more than $2 billion of Russian arms, and that Moscow may be looking for energy deals.

Reuters

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