Following the news that the British government was planning to mount a rescue mission to Libya, the French have reacted with disgust. In a tersely worded communiqué, the French Ambassador said that it appeared that Britain was 'acting in her self-interest in the region', and that the opportunistic sale of weapons was to be deplored.
His statement said that in spite of interference from the UK, France would continue its long standing aid program to Libya. "It's not about weapons; it's about the long-suffering people!" he exclaimed in a follow-up interview, " . . . and oil . . . and weapons."
When questioned about the statement, President Sarkozy said it was ridiculous to suggest France was in competition with the UK to supply combative aid to Libya. "C'est ridicule!" he exhorted, "De toute façon, le fils de Gaddafi est notre copain!"
However, leaked documents show a well-established history of arms supply to Libya from both France and Britain, and both countries have feted the Libyan regime in order to secure commercial deals, particularly in the oil sector.
"Nonsense!" the French Ambassador told journalists today, "We are simply offering to supply aid and essential agricultural equipment."
A quick look at a French agricultural equipment catalogue today showed a range of fire-and-forget anti-tractor devices and their new ground-to-air silage maker.