Libyan President: Nations Competing to Sell Libya Weapons

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Al-Qaddafi said Thursday that Libya stands to profit from competition among Western and ex-Soviet nations for access to its lucrative arms market.

Qaddafi, who ended Libya's years of international isolation in 2003 when he renounced terrorism and gave up efforts to develop nuclear weapons, said the rivalry would allow Libya to get the most modern weapons for the best possible price.

He spoke in Kiev at the end of a weeklong tour to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, all of which offered to supply Libya with weapons. He said Libya was also discussing possible arms deals with Britain, France and Italy.

"Everyone is trying to offer a better choice," Qaddafi said.

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Russia, which supplied billions of dollars' worth of aircraft, missiles and other weapons to Libya during Soviet times, has moved recently to rebuild ties that withered after the 1991 Soviet collapse. But it faces strong competition.

Vladimir Putin visited Libya in April when he was still Russia's president, agreeing to write off $4.5 billion in Libyan debt in exchange for lucrative deals in energy and arms. In return, state-owned Russian Railways landed a $2.8 billion contract and Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom signed a deal to develop six prospective oil and gas fields in Libya.

But Russian media have reported that has been relatively little progress in talks on business deals and weapons contracts. Ukraine and Belarus could emerge as strong competitors since their numerous Soviet-era defense plants could offer similar products.

Qaddafi said Thursday that during his visit to Moscow officials from the two nations signed a deal on cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy, but gave no details. He said Libya was ready to sign similar deals with the U.S., Japan and other nations.

Russian media reports had claimed before Qaddafi's visit to Moscow that Libya could offer Russian ships permission to use its port of Benghazi.

The issue wasn't publicly mentioned during Qaddafi's trip to Moscow, however, and the Libyan leader didn't comment on it. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov denied that the matter was ever discussed.

Qaddafi, who is still viewed as an eccentric autocrat in the West, also claimed that he predicted Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. presidential election in his Green Book, which was published in the 1970s and set out his political views.

"Everything that is happening now was written in the Green Book 30 years ago already," Qaddafi said at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital. "And the Green Book says that dark-skinned people will rule the world."