Libya ‘Ready to Host Russian Naval Base’

RIA Novosti Photo

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — Libya is willing to host a Russian naval base as a means of security against any possible U.S. attack, a Russian business daily said on Friday.

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi will pay an official visit to Russia at the invitation of President Dmitry Medvedev from October 31 to November.

The Kommersant newspaper cited a source close to the preparations for the visit as saying that the Libyan leader was planning to raise the naval base issue during talks with the Russian leadership.

Russia wants a naval base in the Mediterranean to establish a permanent military presence in the region. As a sign of a possible deal with Libya, Russian warships have recently paid a number of visits to the North African country.

A naval task force from Russia’s Northern Fleet, led by the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky, visited the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in October and the Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate from Russia’s Baltic Fleet has also recently called at Tripoli to replenish supplies.

Another Russian business daily, Vedomosti, said last week that deals to supply arms to Libya worth more than $2 billion could be signed during Qaddafi’s visit.

Qaddafi, who has ruled oil and gas-rich Libya since 1969, last visited the Russian capital in 1985, before the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The paper also cited an official in the Russian Technology Corporation as saying that contracts had been discussed on the supply of 16 SU-30 MKI Flanker-H multirole fighters, T-90 tanks, and TOR-M2E air defense systems to Libya.

Libya’s Soviet-era $4.6 billion debt was recently written off in lieu of a host of new contracts, the largest being a $3 billion deal under which the Russian Railways monopoly is to build a 554-km (344-mile) railroad in Libya.

The deal was signed when the then president and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, visited the country in April 2008.