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Panama Seeking Noriega's Return, Despite France's Request

Panama says it still wants former dictator Manuel Noriega sent back to his native country after he is released from a U.S. prison in September.

U.S. prosecutors filed a request on Tuesday to have Noriega extradited to France on behalf of the French government. Noriega was convicted in France in absentia in 1999 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. He faces a 10-year prison sentence and a multi-million dollar fine.

The former dictator has also been convicted in absentia in Panama for the 1985 murder of dissident leader Hugo Spadafora.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis says his government expects its extradition request to be honored.

Noriega's attorney Frank Rubino says his client is protected under the Geneva Convention because a judge has declared him a prisoner of war. Under the Convention, a prisoner of war who has served his sentence must be sent back to his native country.

U.S. forces captured Noriega after invading Panama in 1989. He was convicted in 1992 on drug trafficking, racketeering and conspiracy charges. His scheduled release follows the conclusion most of his 30-year prison sentence.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.