France and Libya Monday signed contracts worth billions of dollars during the first day of a controversial visit to Paris by Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from the French capital.
The two countries signed contracts for the Libyan purchase of 21 Airbus planes along with a nuclear reactor from France. The initial deals are worth nearly $15 billion - and Paris is hoping for more to come during the five-day stay here of Libya's Moammar Qadhafi.
The Libyan leader's visit has sparked a storm of controversy here - including from the center right government's own human rights minister, Rama Yade. Even French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was resigned to the visit of a man once labeled the leader of a terrorist nation.
But French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday defended Qadhafi's visit.
Mr. Sarkozy said France was receiving a head of state who had renounced for good and the possession of weapons of mass destruction. He noted Mr. Qadhafi had also agreed to compensate victims of previous terrorist attacks blamed on Libya and to liberate Bulgarian medics jailed in Libya on charges of infecting children with the AIDS virus.
Mr. Sarkozy said France must talk to all those who choose the path of respectability and reintegration into the international ommunity. And he claimed credit for bringing business deals to France.
The Libyan leader meets with United Nations officials, French lawmakers and members of the African community during his Paris trip, that will also include a visit to Versailles and a hunting trip. His visit is his first to France in more than three decades.