Tripoli reaches out

06 December 2004
The Libyan government is making a concerted effort to upgrade its military transport capabilities following the lifting of an 18-year European arms embargo in early October. Top of the shopping list are replacements for its fleet of AntonovAn-26 aircraft, some of which have been in service since the early 1980s.

The government last year placed an order with Ukraine's Kharkov State Aircraft Manufacturing Company for five new An-140s. However, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, visited Indonesia's PTDI Hyundai in mid-November and is understood to have expressed an interest in the 30-50-seater CN-235 aircraft.

Italian state-owned firms Finmeccanicaand Fincantieri have also expressed an interest in supplying border control equipment.

'The embargo has been in place for such a long time that they have a lot of priorities when it comes to upgrading equipment, but there is a strong emphasis on border control - on maritime patrol boats, for example - as patrolling the EU zone and preventing illegal immigration were among the main reasons Europe lifted the embargo in the first place,' says Siemon Wezeman, arms trade researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 'Also, they have shifted their political focus from the Arab world to Africa, so they are likely to be looking at long-range transport to support African Union forces. That would be a nice political statement for Libya.'

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