US, EU Near Deal on Bulgarian Nurses' Release - Report

Politics | November 4, 2005, Friday // 00:00

The United States and the European Union are in the final stages of negotiating a deal with Libya to free five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death for infecting children with HIV, Nicholas Kralev wrote in the Washington Times, citing US and European officials.

According to the unnamed officials the agreement, which is seen as a key to ending Tripoli's decades-long international isolation, would lead to legislation scrapping the death penalty and would include foreign "humanitarian assistance" for the North African country.

A senior State Department official said the United States has been "engaged" with the Libyan government on the issue of capital punishment.

"A new law ending the practice would provide Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government with a face-saving way out of the affair."

The article cites State Department spokesman Sean McCormack who concurred with Bulgarian Ambassador to EU that any aid Libya might receive would be humanitarian assistance and not ransom.

"We are in a position to provide diplomatic support in this effort, and I think the EU is really on the lead in terms of any potential humanitarian package," he said.

Five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor are under a death sentence in a Libyan jail, accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the AIDS virus.

Libya's Supreme Court is set to hear their final appeal on November 15; they could face a firing squad if the appeal is rejected.

They already have spent seven years in prison.

Bulgaria has ruled out paying any indemnities saying that would acknowledge its medical workers' guilt.

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