NO one will wish to detract from the happy conclusion to the imprisonment of the Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who have at last been freed by President Gaddafi after eight years of rough treatment on the probably trumped-up charge of deliberately infecting children with the Aids virus.

However, there are some questions to be asked about the strange behaviour of France's President Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia in the final stages of the negotiations for the release; these have been conducted for some time by the European Union with Britain and Germany in leading roles. At the very final stages Cecilia Sarkozy visited Libya twice and yesterday Mr Sarkozy himself flew there for meetings with President Gaddafi. The general assumption in Brussels was that the French had seen an opportunity to associate themselves with a success story and in doing so to re-open what were once strong political and trade links with Libya. Mr Sarkozy put it rather differently: “The nurses, in my heart were French. They were French because they were unjustly acused and because they had suffered.” He said he had intervened because of a sense of duty from being head of a country that was the birthplace of human rights.
Fine sentiments, Monsieur le President. But can we assume, therefore, that France is going to act in a similar way over those deprived of their human rights everywhere, starting perhaps with Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma?


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