Italy, Libya in new political pact to boost ties

Italy, Libya in new political pact to boost ties
# 21 January 2012 19:25 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Italy and Libya signed a wide-ranging pact on Saturday to redefine their ties in the post-Kadhafi era, as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti made his first visit since the dictator’s fall, APA reports quoting AFP.

It was unclear if the new "Tripoli Declaration" signed by Italy and Libya replaces a "friendship treaty" signed by Moamer Kadhafi and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi.

But Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, who signed the pact with his Italian counterpart, signalled that for now the friendship treaty was on the backburner.

"We left it aside," a smiling Kib told AFP on the sidelines of a joint news conference with Monti after the signing ceremony.

"One of the articles (of the friendship treaty) says it is possible to re-examine (it). Libya has changed. Only one person signed that treaty," Kib said, referring to the dead despot.

"The important thing is that the relationship is amicable and based on mutual respect and consideration," Kib added.

The friendship treaty was expected to be revived during Monti’s visit that was suspended during last year’s uprising which ended with the killing of Kadhafi in October.

The treaty had eased the way for billions of euros (dollars) in two-way investments.

Italy had also agreed to pay Libya five billion euros ($3.9 billion) over 25 years in compensation for colonial rule and to build around 1,700 kilometres (1,050 miles) of coastline motorway in the North African nation.

Monti, who spoke mostly in Italian, said his country was ready to help Libya in its "reconstruction and democratic stabilisation," and "to reactivate our cooperation in fighting illegal immigration" to Europe.

An English copy of the declaration said the pact aims to "open new horizons for mutual cooperation for the benefit of the two friendly peoples and to realise the new vision of Libya in response to the glorious 17 February revolution."

An Italian diplomat in Monti’s delegation said the pact allows Italy to offer services in technology and information that could help raise Libya’s know-how in "civilian and defence sectors."

Monti also returned to Kib the sculpted first century head of Flavia Domitilla Minor, the Roman Emperor Vespasian’s daughter, which was smuggled from the town of Sabratha in the 1960s and recently auctioned at Christie’s.

His visit comes after the Libyan central bank’s decision to refrain from participating in a planned recapitalisation of Italian bank UniCredit, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The Libyan central bank’s current holding of 4.9 percent of the capital in UniCredit would be cut to around 2.7 percent, the Dow Jones report said.

Rome had unblocked funds frozen when Kadhafi was running Libya so that the central bank could take part in UniCredit’s capital increase worth a total 7.5 billion euros ($9.7 billion), as it was initially expected to do.

Meanwhile, Paolo Scaroni, the chief of Italian oil giant ENI, the top producer of Libyan crude, said on Saturday that the firm has almost returned to the output levels of before last year’s war.

"We are almost where we were. We are producing 270,000 barrels per day (bpd) now against 280,000 before the revolution," Scaroni, a member of Monti’s delegation, told reporters.

"I can say with pride that no other oil company has done this well and this quickly."

Before the outbreak of the uprising in mid-February 2011, Libya produced 1.6 million bpd of crude, of which 1.3 million barrels were exported.

Tripoli says it expects to return to pre-conflict levels of oil production by the end of 2012, but the head of the OPEC cartel, Abdullah El-Badri, has said he expects this goal to be reached by mid-2012.

On the security front, protesters on Saturday threw three grenades at the ruling National Transitional Council office in the eastern city of Benghazi, without causing casualties, NTC secretary Mustafa al-Manae said.

The attack, the first such violent act against the NTC, took place as injured former rebels demonstrated outside the NTC office.