Libya puts off talks with Europe over jailed Bulgarian nurses

Libya has postponed indefinitely talks to end an international row over the fate of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused by Moamar Gadhafi's government of deliberately infecting children with AIDS. "The talks has now to be put off for another time," according to a top Libyan official who spoke late Monday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with reporters.

The negotiations were scheduled for Wednesday in Tripoli. The court decision for a retrial came three days after U.S., European and Libyan negotiators reached a deal to set up a fund to help families of the 426 children infected with HIV in the 1990s. About 50 of the children have died, according to a lawyer for the families.

The United States and European Union had accused Libya of trumping up the charges to divert attention from poor hygiene at its hospitals. The court's chief judge Sunday described "irregularities" in the case.

Gadhafi, eager to improve ties with the West, was believed to be looking for a face-saving way out.

The delay came after angry protests by families of the infected children following the court verdict Sunday that overturned death sentences imposed on the nurses and doctor.

The talks were to discuss proposals by Bulgaria, the United States, Britain and the EU to set up a non-governmental group to collect and distribute aid to the children's families.

The Libyan official said the negotiations were to focus on compensating the families, providing advanced medicine to the children and rehabilitation of their hospital wards in Libya. The health workers were accused of deliberately infecting the children at a Benghazi hospital as part of an experiment. The accused said they were tortured to extract confessions, reports the AP. I.L.

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