Binding Ties: Gaddafi’s Italian Connection

According to Jana, the official Libyan news agency, Muammar al-Qaddafi called his “friend” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday to tell him “Libya is fine,” Reuters reports.

Jana said that the “Brother leader,” told Berlusconi: “Whoever wants to know the truth should closely follow the Libyan media and not turn to the lies and the fabricated information broadcast by the organs of traitors and the depraved.”

On Monday, Berlusconi had broken his silence over the reported atrocities in Libya, calling the use of force against civilians “unacceptable.” The Italian leader, who has cultivated close ties with his Libyan counterpart, was criticized over the weekend for saying that he did not want to “disturb” Colonel Qaddafi during the bloody crackdown on protesters.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg News explained that the Italian and Libyan economies are closely linked. “Italy’s trading ties with Libya make it the most exposed European Union country to any collapse in Qaddafi’s regime,” Bloomberg reported. The news agency added:

Italy bought 49 percent of Libya’s exports to the 27-nation E.U. in 2009 and was responsible for 39 percent of the bloc’s sales to the North African country, according to Eurostat, the E.U.’s Luxembourg-based statistics office. Germany bought 14 percent of Libyan exports.

Italy’s ties with Libya, which it occupied from 1911 to 1943, have strengthened under Prime Minister Berlusconi. In 2008, it forged a treaty that paved the way for 25 billion euros ($34 billion) in Eni SpA oil projects in Libya. Investment links also go the other way, with Libyan stakes in UniCredit SpA, Italy’s biggest bank, totaling 7.6 percent.

The close ties between the Italian and Libyan leaders became the subject of closer scrutiny and mockery last year, after an Italian newspaper reported that a young woman told Milan police that Berlusconi called sex parties at his home “bunga bunga,” in reference to a rite of Qaddafi’s harem.

That led an Italian opposition party to put up posters in Rome showing Mr. Berlusconi’s “evolution” into a version of the Libyan leader.

Complete article via New York Times


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