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French Government Rejects American Concern over Arms Deal with Libya

The French Government has apparently rejected American expressions of concern over its reported $400 million arms deal pending with Libya. The United States Ambassador in Paris, Sargent Shriver, brought up the subject today at a meeting with French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann. French officials said afterwards that the two had exchanged “information on all problems related to the Middle East.”

State Department sources disclosed today that subject of the French-Libyan arms deal was opened last week when the French Ambassador, Charles Lucet, was informed of American views by Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Mr. Lucet apparently failed to satisfy American apprehensions which may have led Ambassador Shriver to request today’s meeting with Mr. Schumann.

France is reportedly negotiating with Libyans for the sale of up to 50 Mirage jets, 200 tanks and other modern arms. France is also reported to have offered to take over the management and maintenance of the huge U.S. Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli and a British air base near Benghazi which are being evacuated at the demand of Libya’s new revolutionary junta.

TALKS WITH LIBYA OF GENERAL NATURE

French officials have said that the talks with Libya were of “a general character.” They take the view that arms sales to Libya do not violate the arms embargo that former President Charles de Gaulle imposed on belligerents in the June, 1967 Arab-Israel War. They say that unlike Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Libya was not a participant in that conflict.

But American officials are concerned that French arms sold to Libya would eventually find their way to Egypt and other Arab states actively fighting Israel. Military experts say that the arms involved in the French deal exceed by far Libya’s defense needs and are too sophisticated for Libya’s army and air force to operate.

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