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Russia hopes to complete talks on Libya’s debt in January

MOSCOW, December 29 (RIA Novosti) – Russia hopes to complete talks on settling Libya’s Soviet-era debt in January 2008, a government source said.

According to official data, Libya’s debt to Russia stood at around $3.5 billion as of January 1, 2006.

“We are hoping to finalize the debt talks [with Libya] in January,” a source in the Finance Ministry said, adding that the previous round of negotiations was held in December but the sides did not reach an agreement at the time.

He said the debt settlement would determine the schedule for the forthcoming visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the oil-rich African state.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Libya earlier in December and met with the country’s leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi to discuss bilateral relations, international issues and preparations for Putin’s visit.

“Like any summit, a meeting of the Russian and Libyan leaders should be well prepared, and I can say the package of agreements [to be signed] in the economic, political and military-technological spheres is quite impressive,” Sergei Lavrov said during his visit, without specifying when the meeting would take place.

Libya, which became an international pariah following its support for worldwide terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in October of this year. The African state will serve on the UN Security Council for two years, starting from January 1.

The Security Council role came as Libya is attempting to integrate itself more closely into the international community. The country has given up its quest for nuclear arms and renounced terrorism some four years ago.

Russia welcomed Libya’s non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council, and said it was ready to cooperate with Libya “based on common approaches to most international issues.”