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Millions of US $ 19,131     71
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Col Mu'amar al-Qadhafi

Update No: 024 - (31/10/05)

Is there a solution to the Benghazi Bulgarian Nurses AIDS debacle?
As the European Union made very clear on a number of occasions in 2005, after the appeal over death sentence faced by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor in the Benghazi AIDS trial, the exoneration of the medics is the last official obstacle to Libya's full participation in the international community. Late in September, Libya insisted that Bulgaria pay the families of HIV-positive children in Benghazi, Libya, a diya, or "blood money," to gain the release of the medics. This was by no means the first such offer and Bulgaria promptly rejected it. To pay the fine, say Bulgarian officials, amounts to an admission of guilt. Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told his Libyan counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly meeting last week that his country would not pay "blood money" to the families of the HIV-positive children because the health workers had committed no crime and were not responsible for their infections. The five Bulgarian and one Palestinian medics sentenced to death for allegedly deliberately infecting the children with the virus. AIDS experts testified at the trial of the workers that the HIV infections occurred at the Benghazi hospital due to unsanitary conditions and practices by hospital staff, and that they occurred before the foreign workers arrived there, but a Libyan court in 2004 found the workers guilty and sentenced them to death. 
An appeal should be heard in Libyan courts in November. 
Meanwhile, the medics have been in a Libyan jail since 1999 and several countries - many with strong influence over Libya - have intervened in their support. As the appeal deadline approaches, the fate of the Bulgarian medics has come to the fore, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowed to help the five Bulgarian nurses jailed in Libya. He told his Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin Lavrov said that he would raise the question for the fate of five women during his official visit to Libya in November. Bulgaria's foreign minister also talked to his Spanish colleague Miguel Angel Moratinos, who informed him that Bulgaria's EU accession treaty might be approved by the Spanish parliament in December. This is significant as Bulgaria's entry into the EU puts additional pressure on Libya to release the medics, as the Bulgarian nurses case becomes an EU matter. Libya rejected the request made by the US President George W. Bush to release five Bulgarian women nurses sentenced to death over being convicted of transferring AIDS/HIV to hundreds of Libyan children.
International pressure to release the Bulgarian nurses increased as United States President Bush told journalists in a meeting in the White House with the Bulgarian President Georgi Barvanov that he had asked Tripoli to release the medics being held in Libya over the Benghazi hospital AIDS deaths. Bush stressed that he asked Tripoli to release the medics, and not simply to absolve them from the death sentence. For its part Tripoli, under strong international pressure - perhaps the strongest concerted international pressure since the sanctions - said through foreign minister Abdul Rahman Shalqam on al-Jazeera TV that political decisions could not be taken in what is a judicial matter. He noted that Muammar al-Qadhafi "has no judicial authority to interfere in a matter pertinent only to the judiciary and families of the victims." Once again Shalqam urged the Bulgarian authorities to reach an agreement with the families of the victims in order to pay the 'diya' and close the case. There were also widely publicized protests - in front of the UN building in downtown Tripoli (an old Italian villa from the colonial period) by Libyans protesting against the US stance favouring the release of the nurses. The protests have been widely noted in news coverage of Libya, but they are not especially indicative of what Libyans really believe. Indeed, the protests are often a government tool signalling to the world a government position. In this case, the position is that the government cannot simply exonerate the nurses. 

A sign of hope?
Nevertheless, mere days after the protests there was an important signal suggesting the nurses may soon be released after all. Indeed, as reported by the UAE based newspaper Al-Bayan on October 28, the son of Muammar al-Qadhafi - Saif al-Islam, who has been in the forefront of opening the country to the outside world serving as a cross between Libyan goodwill ambassador and trade commissioner - has admitted the guilt of the Libyan authorities for the AIDS epidemics that broke out in the children's hospital in Benghazi. This is the very first such admission, and while Saif al-Islam has no official role in the Libyan government, he is widely known abroad and said to have suggested to his father to make the famous renunciation of weapons of mass destruction announcement of December 2003, which led to the opening of relations with the United States. More interestingly, Saif al-Islam also admitted that the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor, facing the death penalty after being found guilty of deliberately infecting with HIV/AIDS some 426 children in the Benghazi hospital, have been tortured. Saif al-Islam's statement precedes by only three weeks, the set court hearing of the appeal of the death sentence of the nurses. The five Bulgarian health workers and a Palestinian doctor were found guilty of having caused the death of 40 children and of infecting almost 400 others with HIV at a Benghazi hospital by a Libyan court in 2004.
They were sentenced to death by a firing squad. While, an immediate release of the medics is highly unlikely, as the Libyan government will probably have to come to some agreement with the families (i.e. compensate them in what would amount to be an admission of responsibility), the statements by Saif al-islam suggest the death sentence and eventual release of the medics is the likely outcome of the over six-year long saga. 
Moreover, Tripoli has also stated that it would like to intensify relations with the United States, and acting on the death sentence against the Bulgarian nurses - especially after a direct request to release them from president Bush - would certainly do very little in that regard. At the United Nations General Assembly, Libyan Prime Minister Ghanem hinted he would like to be invited to Washington, while hoping that Condoleeza Rice would soon visit Tripoli. It appears the Bush administration politely declined Ghanem's invitation, while a State Department spokesman said Rice had no trip to Libya on her schedule. Meanwhile, Libya and the UK have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) over the exchange of dissidents. The MOU was signed in Tripoli, and allows the British government it "to safely deport foreign nationals". The agreement was criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International. The group is concerned over Libya's continued use of torture. Until the MOU, Britain was not able to deport, under international conventions, people back to a country where they are likely to face torture or inhuman, degrading treatment or where they might face the death penalty. 

Results of the Second Bidding Round for Oil Exploration Contracts: Asians dominate
As expected majors ENI (E), Total (TOT), ExxonMobil (XOM) and BG (BG.LN) won stakes in the 26 areas on offer in the second round, as did key players Norsk Hydro (NHY) and Statoil (STO). Russian oil company Tatneft (TATN.RS) and Turkish Petroleum also won bids. Libya, however, wants to increase its daily oil production to achieve 3 million barrels per day by 2010, expecting oil companies to invest several billions in exploration contracts. Of the 51 companies participating in the Second bidding round, Japan snatched a large number of these, as Japanese companies including " Mitsubishi " and " Nippon Petroleum " got at least one contract. The Italian "Anne Gas" company won four contracts exceeding the British group "British gas" which won three contracts. French "Total" won one contract at a rate of 27.8% of the total project, while Indian firms Oil India and Indian Oil also signed expand the Norway's group" Stat Oil," the Indonesian Group " Petromin." The Chinese company " CNBC International " got the highest participation rate of 28.5%. The Libyan national oil company NOC also said that American Exxon Mobil "won in collaboration with the Japanese "Nippon" and the French "Petromin" a contract in the centre of the country. British Petroleum in collaboration with "Petromin" and "India Oil" won two contracts in Sirte, while the Italian "Anne Gas" in collaboration with "British Petroleum" won two contracts in Kofra fields and companies from France, Norway and Russia won contracts in Marzouk fields west of the country. Libyan oil whose reserves are estimated at 30 billion barrels is known for its cheap refinery costs because of its light crude nature and low sulphur content.

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