Uprising puts an abrupt end to recent surge in U.S. military exports to Libya

Tuesday, March 8, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The United States has suspended what would have been its first major military project with Libya.

Officials said the Defense Department had been approaching the signing of a deal to sell 50 armored personnel carriers to Libya. They said the Pentagon deal, estimated at $77 million, was to have been contracted to BAE Systems and Turkey's Nurol.

The Libyan APC deal was conceived in 2009. Officials said senior Libyan commanders, including the children of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, were clamoring for the upgrade.

n 2008, Washington approved $46 million in defense exports to Libya, a nearly 10-fold increase from $5 million during the previous year. The exports included explosives and incendiary agents meant for energy exploration. Defense exports to Libya were said to have declined to $17 million in 2009.

Washington had also been mulling a plan to export the U.S.-origin Humvee combat vehicle to Libya. But officials said the proposal foundered on the refusal by Congress to approve lethal systems.

"This was to have been the first major upgrade of U.S. equipment for Libya," an official recalled.

Officials said the project called for the modernization of the U.S.-origin M113 APC, a 1970s-era combat vehicle. They said the program called for Turkey's FNSS Systems to enhance the engine, structure and subsystems. In 2010, the company launched a similar upgrade for the army of Saudi Arabia.

The project was reportedly canceled in late February amid the revolt in Libya. Officials said congressional leaders had demanded the end of export plans by the State Department.

Officials the Libyans wanted the project to include the installation of machine guns on the M113. They said the administration of President Barack Obama refused to supply lethal systems until the regime instituted democratic reforms.

"We would not discuss the possibility of lethal U.S. arms sales until Libya made significant progress on human rights issues, visas and other areas of bilateral relationship," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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