By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 3 May:
Libya is demanding that France hand over Bashir Salah, one of Qaddafi’s closest associates and former head of Libya’s multi-billion dollar investments in Africa.
“Libya will formally request France for the extradition of Bashir Saleh to Libya”, said government spokesman Nasser Al-Mana on Wednesday at his weekly press conference.
Bashir Saleh is currently a wanted person by the National Transitional Council of Libya. He was captured after the liberation of Tripoli but later escaped. A committee was formed to investigate the circumstances under which he escaped but so far the committee has not submitted any report.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Saleh was in France and would be handed over to Interpol if Libya wanted him. He added that his presence in Fance has been approved by NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil. “The arrival of Mr Salah was made with the full agreement of the president of the Libyan National Transitionl Council,” he said. “The decision for him to be in France was taken after consultation with the Libyan authorities.”
The previous day, French Prime Minister François Fillon, had said that “there was no trace” of an international request for his detention, saying Saleh “comes and goes between France and Niger”.
Libya has, in fact, already put out an Interpol request for Salah’s arrest. His picture appears in the Interpol site of persons wanted by Libya, however there he is named as Bashir Al-Shrkawi.
Speaking about the incident when armed fighters surrounded the headquarters of the National Transitional Council on Tuesday, he said: “We are open to discussions on all topics and with everyone but it is not the right way to come armed to the protest.” He emphasised that it is the “beauty” of democracy was that everybody had a right to voice his opinion but it should be in a civil manner.
On the issue of protesters blocking the AGOCO headquarters in Banghazi, he said: “They are threatening the interests of the state. They should use freedom of speech with responsibility.”
ACOGO say they will halt oil production if the government does not deal with the protestors by the end of today. However, he declined to confirm the number of AGOCO employees taking part in the protests. AGOCO says there is none.
Nonetheless, Nasser Al-Mana said the army’s Chief of Staff was working closely with the Ministry of Interior to improve the security of the oil installations and the exporting terminals. The oil fields were operating in a normal fashion and the production was good, he said, adding that it had reached 1.55 million b/d last week.
Al-Mana also said that the Al-Abraq and Tobruk airports were operational as of this week and four flights came in the first week. The opening of these routes would further facilitate the passengers from the eastern region and allow more flights to the capital, Tripoli.
He also confirmed that 2,270 more fighters had been sent to Jordan for training. Both countries signed an agreement two months ago under which Jordan is to train the security forces of Libya. More than 1,400 were sent for training last month.
Al-Mana also said that a meeting between revolutionaries and the government had taken place in Benghazi. They discussed current issues and ways to improve the overall security situation.
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan