France 'optimistic' on death-row nurses after Libya visit

France said Friday it believed that foreign medics on death row in Libya would be released, following meetings in Tripoli between the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Moamer Kadhafi.

France 'optimistic' on death-row nurses after Libya visit
We can be reasonably optimistic," Claude Gueant, a senior aide to the president, told AFP.

Cecilia Sarkozy returned to Paris early Friday, hours after a surprise visit to see five Bulgarian nurses facing the death sentence in Libya after being convicted of infecting children with the AIDS virus. A Palestinian doctor is also detained on death row for the same charges.

She had two meetings with Kadhafi, and also met with the Libyan leader's daughter Aicha, who is in charge of women's rights in Libya.

Sarkozy also visited the hospital in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi where the children infected by AIDS are treated and spoke to their families.

In Benghazi, she stressed that her visit to Libya was "not official" and that she had been sent by the French president "as a mother" to affirm the support of France for the children.

Sarkozy's visit came a day after Libya's Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were convicted of infecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood at a hospital and sentenced to death in May 2004.

Fifty-six of the children have since died.

A reprieve may still be possible in the case that has dragged on for eight years.

Libya's top legal body is due to meet next week to examine a compensation deal negotiated by the Kadhafi Foundation, a charitable body headed by the son of the Libyan leader, that could see the death sentences commuted.

The spokesman for the children's families, Idriss Lagha, repeated Thursday that they were open to a settlement that would see the medics freed, in accordance, he said, with the Islamic principles of forgiveness and clemency.

"It is due to these principles that the nurses could be released," Lagha said.

"The world must show humanity towards our children, as we are doing towards the nurses. It must express a humane interest for our children, in ensuring their treatment for the rest of their lives," he added.

The European Union's External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who has been closely involved in negotiations over the medics, indicated Thursday that an acceptable resolution to the affair would be found.

"I am cautiously optimistic that we have reached a point where we all want to see a positive outcome to this matter," she said in a statement.

A former model and PR executive, Cecilia Sarkozy acted as the president's communications advisor when he was interior minister in Jacques Chirac's government, working from an office in his ministry.

But in 2005 the couple went through a brief separation and she withdrew from the political scene.

Cecilia Sarkozy was absent during much of Sarkozy's campaign, only appearing at his side for the victory celebrations and swearing-in ceremonies, raising questions over what -- if any -- role she would play at the new president's side.

A recent report in France's Le Figaro newspaper suggested she had opted for a "complementary" role to her husband on the international scene, having hired a top-level diplomatic advisor to guide her steps on the world stage.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2007, 16:48