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France 'set to extradite Noriega'

France is to extradite former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, his lawyer has said.

Yves Leberquier said French prime minister Francois Fillon signed the extradition on July 6 and Noriega was notified last week.

It was not immediately clear when Noriega would be sent home.

A Panamanian official said his government had not been informed of a decision by France to extradite Noriega.

"We are not aware of (an extradition decision) nor why Mr Noriega's lawyers would give such news," foreign relations assistant secretary for legal affairs and treaties Vladimir Franco said.

He said that once France informed Panama that it had approved Noriega's extradition, the Central American country would have to arrange for his transfer to a Panamanian prison, which could take one to three weeks.

Noriega, Panama's military dictator from 1983 to 1989, was imprisoned in the United States for two decades after being deposed in a 1989 US invasion. He was sent from Florida to France last year to face money laundering charges, where he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A Panamanian court has convicted Noriega over the death of a military commander. He faces 20 years in jail.

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