Sarkozy to mend fences with Angola

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Angola on Friday, his office said, in a bid to improve relations following an arms scandal that provoked tensions between the two countries.

Sarkozy was to hold talks with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Friday morning at the presidential palace, followed by a ceremony where the two were expected to sign accords on bilateral cooperation.

Deals involving French businesses were also to be signed during Sarkozy’s visit, the first by a French president since 1998, before he returns home in the afternoon.

Sarkozy told Jornal de Angola newspaper the French Development Agency would open an office in Luanda before the end of the year and offer programmes on agriculture training and the teaching of French.

The visit comes ahead of the opening in September of a trial of 42 men including former senior government figures for illegal arms sales to Angola.

Relations between France and Angola have been tense over the arms affair in which French former interior minister Charles Pasqua and former president Francois Mitterrand’s son, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, face trial.

The 42 people face charges of accepting illegal payments from two businessmen, Pierre Falcone and Arcadi Gaydamak, for the arms sales to Angola between 1993 and 2000.

Sarkozy met Dos Santos in New York in September on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting and declared following their talks that the period of tense relations between France and Angola was “definitely over”.

He had planned to visit Angola in February following a visit to South Africa, but it was postponed due to scheduling problems.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producer after Nigeria, Angola also rates among the continent’s poorest nations, according to the United Nations Development Programme. - AFP

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