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Libya In Russia Arms Talks

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Libya's defense minister has arrived in Moscow for talks that Russian media said could result in a $2 billion defense contract including 20 jets.

Officials in Libya's Moscow embassy confirmed that Major General Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr was flying into the Russian capital.

"Libya is ready to buy around 20 fighter planes, not less than two divisions of S-300PMU2 air-defense systems, several dozen T-90S tanks from Russia, and also to modernise more than 140 T-72 tanks and other weapons," Interfax news agency reported, citing what it called "a military-diplomatic source."

"Vedomosti" business newspaper reported that the package could be worth up to $2 billion, quoting unnamed sources, who told it the sale of the S300 systems was "practically agreed."

A spokesman for Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-controlled arms exporter, could not be contacted for comment today.

Libya's embassy declined any comment on the likelihood of a deal, but said a press briefing may be scheduled for January 27.

The arrival of the senior Libyan officials comes days after the Libyan Investment Authority bought into the Hong Kong IPO of UC RUSAL, the world's biggest aluminum producer, Vedomosti reported on January 25.

Interfax reported that $1 billion of the $2 billion deal was for 12 to 15 multifunction fighters such as Sukhoi SU-35s and SU-30s and Yakovlev Yak-130s trainer planes.

Libya has moved to restore its reputation after ending its international isolation in recent years and has made efforts to cultivate energy and arms ties with Moscow.