Gadhafi eyes Italian business

June 13, 2009

, ROME, June 13 – Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi assured Italian business leaders Friday that their ties with the North African state took priority over competitors from other countries.

Gadhafi, on the third and final day of his controversial visit to Italy, insisted all the needs of Libya\’s former colonial master were of great importance.

Speaking to heads of the country\’s employers\’ federation Confindustria, he said: "Italian businesses will take priority in Libya, all Italy\’s needs in Libya will take priority."

Italy and Libya are important business partners and Kadhafi\’s words drew a positive response from Confindustria president Emma Marcegaglia who said Gadhafi\’s visit marked a "turning point in bilateral relations".

She also hailed the presence of several Italian companies in Libya, such as Eni (petrol), Enel (electricity), Impregilo (construction), and Finmeccanica (aeronautics and defence).

Marcegaglia added Libyan investment in Italy could increase.

"The Libyan presence in Italy is important and it could become even stronger," she said.

Italy is a top importer of Libyan goods, as well as being a major exporter to the North African country.

Thanks to its petrodollars, Libya has become the second biggest shareholder in major Italian bank Unicredit.

It holds more than four percent of its capital and hopes to acquire a share of Italian oil group Eni.

Tripoli and Rome signed a friendship accord last August, whereby Italy has promised to invest five billion dollars over 25 years in its former subject as compensation for the colonial period (1911-1942).

The positive reaction to Gadhafi\’s speech stood in stark contrast to the response he provoked among some Italians at other stages of his visit.

A right-wing politician on Friday branded Kadhafi a "bandit" and he demanded his ejection from Italy after the Libyan leader said Rome could never make amends for its colonial past and likened the United States to Al-Qaeda.

Mirko Tremaglia, a deputy in the country\’s ruling People of Freedom party, called for Gadhafi to be "chased off immediately and sent back home".

"If anyone knows about terrorism, it\’s Kadhafi, but we forget about that because he found a bit of petrol," said Tremaglia.

Libya became an international pariah in the aftermath of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but relations began to thaw when it agreed in 2003 to pay compensation for the victims of the plane bombing, prompting the lifting of UN sanctions.

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