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Authorities in Nouakchott appear to confirm Libya's claim that Mauritania will give al-Senussi to them, angering France and frustrating the International Criminal Court.
Reuters reports that Libyan authorities say they have won custody of former Gaddafi spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi, beating out France and the International Criminal Court for the right to try him first.
Paris, Tripoli and the ICC had each vied for custody of al-Senussi following his arrest in Mauritania on Friday. The former Libyan official is wanted on different charges in all three jurisdictions.
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In a Twitter post two hours ago, Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur of Libya wrote:
I have met the President of Mauritania and he agreed to the extradition of Senussi to Libya.
— Dr.Mustafa Abushagur (@MustafaAG) March 20, 2012
A Mauritanian security source said things were not quite as settled as Shagur made it seem and said the French were pressing hard.
"We agreed to study their request favorably. It's almost a done deal but one should be careful. The French are applying lots of pressure," Reuters quoted the person as saying on condition of anonymity.
France, Mauritania’s former colonial power, wants to try al-Senussi for the 1989 bombing of an airliner of Niger that killed 54 French people.
"They say their claim takes priority because their arrest warrant went in first and because they helped with the arrest," the person said.
The ICC wants al-Senussi for alleged joint perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, during last year's eight-month war to suppress the popular uprising against the former government.
According to the Agence France-Presse news agency, Abu Shagur also addressed reporters.
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"We have thanked the president for the courageous decision he took in deciding to arrest Abdullah Senussi. It is a historic and brave decision the Libyan people will never forget, because this man was the second most important person in Libya after Qaddafi,” Shagur was quoted as saying.