TRIPOLI,(Reuters) – Bulgaria and Libya have delayed talks on a fund for Libyan children with HIV to help families overcome anger over a decision to scrap death sentences against six medics accused of infecting the youngsters, Libyan officials said on Tuesday.
A Bulgarian official in Sofia, however, said the meeting in Tripoli of non-governmental organisations from both countries was postponed from Wednesday until the middle of January to help both sides be more prepared.
Libya had sentenced the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor, jailed since 1999, to death by firing squad, after convicting them of infecting 426 children with HIV in a hospital in the Mediterranean port of Benghazi.
About 50 of the infected children have died.
Libya”s Supreme Court scrapped the death sentences on Christmas Day and ordered a retrial. Libya had suggested the death sentences could be quashed if the children and their families receive ample humanitarian aid.
A Libyan official said the delay of the talks was due to "the bad mood of the families of the sick children following the verdict", referring to the scrapping of the death sentences.
"Talks may resume about one month from now to allow bad tempers of the families to cool down," another official said.
The nurses say they are innocent and that their confessions were extracted under torture. Foreign experts have said the HIV epidemic had started before the medics arrived in Benghazi.
"We have decided to meet in the middle of January when we all will be more prepared. This was agreed before the court”s ruling," Maxim Minchev, an official in the Bulgarian Civil Association for Encouraging Bilateral Relations with Libya, told Reuters.
Minchev”s organisation is due to iron out the details of the fund with the Libyan Association of the Families of HIV Infected Children.