Libya's Gaddafi visits Russia on arms drive
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi makes his first visit to post-Soviet Russia on Friday, seeking to deepen a budding energy and military partnership with Moscow and counterbalance his fast-expanding relations with the West, Reuters reported.
The visit, Gaddafi's first to Moscow since 1985 according to Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, is the latest step in a bold push by the former outcast state to accelerate overseas trade and investment for its booming post-sanctions economy.
Examples of that drive include a rapid expansion of a Libyan state holding in Italian bank Unicredit and a growing list of Libyan deals in Africa and Europe, including a refinery in Egypt and a wheat farming agreement in Ukraine.
"Libya wants to increase its overseas exposure and is showing a surprising sophistication about it, given their years of isolation," said Geoff Porter, an analyst at Eurasia Group.
Arms and energy are the focus of the three-day trip. Gaddafi will meet President Dmitry Medvedev six months after welcoming his predecessor and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the first visit by a Kremlin leader to Libya since 1985.
Russia's Interfax news agency said Libya might agree to buy more than $2 billion (1.2 billion pounds) worth of Russian weapons during the visit, reviving part of a Cold War-era relationship that saw Moscow arming much of Libya's military.
Libya is interested in buying surface-to-air missiles, fighter aircraft, dozens of helicopters and about 50 tanks, Interfax quoted a source in Russia's arms industry as saying.
Moscow also is seeking rich energy contracts in Libya, owner of Africa's largest oil reserves, and state gas monopoly Gazprom is showing interest in taking part in the construction of a new gas pipeline linking Libya and Europe.