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Brazil to Sell Arms to Libya Despite U.S. Objections, Official Says

January 28, 1988|WILLIAM R. LONG | Times Staff Writer

RIO DE JANEIRO — Despite U.S. objections, Brazil will sell up to $2 billion worth of arms to Libya, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Roberto Sodre said that a contract for the sales "is being finalized," a ministry spokesman in Brasilia said after Sodre spoke to Brazilian journalists. He said Sodre also acknowledged that the value of the weapons "could reach" up to $2 billion, as has been reported in the press here.

Sodre declined to specify the kinds of arms that Libya will buy, saying only that they are "defensive weapons."

Interest in New Tank

Brazilian newspapers reported last week that a delegation of visiting Libyan colonels was interested in Brazil's new medium battle tank, the Osorio, and a variety of short- and middle-range missiles, most of which are still in the development stage.

In response to reporters' questions, Sodre denied that Brazil was selling arms to Iran and said it would be illegal for Libya to resell Brazilian arms to Iran.

According to diplomatic reports, Brazilian armored cars and other military equipment sold to Libya in the past have been used by Iran in its seven-year-old war against Iraq.

Brazilian newspapers said that Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead has told Brazilian Ambassador Marcilio Marques Moreira in Washington of U.S. objections to any arms sales to Libya.

William Barr, press spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, said he could not confirm those reports. But a statement released by the embassy said:

"We encourage all civilized countries to deny (Libyan leader Moammar) Kadafi the means to carry out his objectionable policies.

"We believe it is particularly inappropriate to sell arms to the Libyan regime, which, in addition to supplying terrorism, is currently engaged in military aggression against Chad. The Brazilian government is well aware of our views on this subject."

Sodre said the U.S. position "does not have any effect" on Brazilian arms sales to Libya.

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