Italian PM, Delegation Start Visit to Libya

Italian prime minister Mario Monti arrived in the Libyan capital, Tripoli Saturday to revive a treaty of friendship and to offer his nation's expertise in training police in the country that after an eight-month revolution emerged from the dictatorial rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

On his first visit to Libya since the ousting of Gaddafi, Monti is leading a delegation of high-ranking officials, including foreign minister Giulio Terzi and Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola.

Monti is expected to hold talks with Libya's new leaders, including the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, and interim prime minister Abdurrahim el-Keeb. He is also expected to sign a series of bilateral agreements, including one that will offer Italy's services in training the police force of the new Libya.

During his stay in Libya, Monti, who has taken over the premiership of Italy, Libya's country's former colonial power, from Silvio Berlusconi, will also open a consulate in Libya and Libyan sources said, will hand over the sculpted head of the first century Domitilla Minor, which was smuggled from the Libyan town of Sabratha in the 1960s and recently auctioned at Christie's.

The Italian premier's visit is also to focus on reviving a friendship treaty between Italy and Libya that was signed between Berlusconi and Gaddafi, that was suspended during last year's conflict.

Monti is reciprocating the visit the head of the NTC Mustafa Abdul-Jalil made to Rome last month to discuss the treaty that was signed by Gaddafi and Berlusconi, that helped ease the way for billions of euros (dollars) in two-way investments.

Italy also agreed to pay Libya five billion euros over 25 years in compensation for colonial rule and included the construction of around 1,700 kilometres of coastline motorway in Libya. Under the treaty, more than 180 Italian businesses took advantage of the favourable terms for trade links in Libya.

The head of ENI, that became the biggest foreign energy producer in Libya, and, sources say, has signed a memorandum of understanding for undertaking social projects worth 380 million euros, is also accompanying Monti's delegation.

The Italian premier's visit also comes at a time, when, according to Dow Jones Newswires, the Libyan Central Bank has decided to refrain from participating in a planned recapitalisation of Italian bank UniCredit. Down Jones has reported that the Libyan central bank's current holding of 4.9 percent of the capital in UniCredit would be cut to around 2.7 percent.

Rome had unblocked funds frozen when Gaddafi 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, reports.

Monti's visit is expected to follow next month with another high-level Italian delegation.

(Source: Tripoli Post)

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