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Tuesday, September 8, 2009     FOLLOW UPDATES ON TWITTER

Release of Libyan in Pan Am bombing seen improving defense tech ties with UK

LONDON — The regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has sent a delegation to Britain's top defense show as part of an effort to consider programs to modernize Tripoli's military with the best technology available.   

The Libyan delegation plans to tour Defence Systems & Equipment International, or DSEI 2009, which began on Sept. 8 in London.

"This will be a high-level delegation and the biggest to ever come to DSEI," an organizer said.

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The arrival of the Libyan delegation took place in wake of the release by Scotland of the Libyan sentenced to life in prison for the bombing of a U.S. passenger jet over Lockerbie in 1988. The Scottish release was said to have prompted an improvement in relations between London and Tripoli.

The British Defense Ministry has confirmed the arrival of the Libyan defense delegation. The ministry did not provide details.

Officials acknowledged an emerging defense relationship between Britain and Libya. Government data reported British export of $29 million in defense products to Libya in 2008 and the approval of licenses of about $15 million during the first three months of 2009.

"Surely the least we should demand is to stop UK arms companies from trading with this rich and dangerous country," Kaye Stearman, spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said.

Officials said Tripoli has expressed interest in border security, communications, radars and aircraft. They said France and Italy were regarded as the leading competitors of Britain for defense projects in Libya.

British defense executives also plan to brief the Libyan government of advanced weapons and technology. The British Defence Ministry has also been organizing a delegation to visit the Libyan Aviation Exhibition in Tripoli in October 2009.

"While the U.K.-Libya relationship does indeed include trade, bilateral cooperation is now wide-ranging on many levels, particularly in the fight against terrorism," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

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