Italy is back in business in Libya

The mourning period is over in Italy: Italy to help Libya protect borders, oil: Libya PM | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Italy will help Libyan authorities protect the North African country's borders and oil facilities, Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib said on Saturday.

"The defence ministers (of Libya and Italy) signed a letter related to creating a system to control borders managed by Libya and provide training, especially for (protecting) oil installations," Keib told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

"(The letter is) asserting Libyan sovereignty and that no Italian troops will be present," he said.

Monti is in Libya at the head of a diplomatic, economic and military delegation which is hoping to lay the groundwork for contracts for reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars over the next few years.

Projects include building major roads, expanding and rehabilitating airports and seaports and training the armed forces and police, which need new border security and reconnaissance equipment.

As the article notes, in 2008 Silvio Berlusconi agreed with Qadhafi to pay $5bn in compensation over 20 years for crimes committed during Italy's colonization of Libya, when it killed over a quarter of the population. It doesn't look like that payout is going to be honored from this deal, aside from some aid that will be well compensated by oil and infrastructure contracts. Shouldn't Libya expect prompt payment, like the blood money the victims of the Lockerbie bombing took a decade ago? 

[Thanks, PM, who adds: "Given the Italian-made weapons Qadhafi used against his people, I think the NTC should have driven a harder bargain."]

Update: Meanwhile – Protesters storm Libyan government HQ in Benghazi | Reuters

Silvio's alibi

"I swear, Hosni, breasts like this..."

You knew there was a price to be paid for counting Silvio Berlusconi as one of your friends in Europe:

A scandal over Silvio Berlusconi's relationship with a teenage Moroccan girl took on legal and political overtones today when a senior police officer confirmed that the Italian prime minister's office had intervened on her behalf when she was detained on suspicion of theft, claiming she was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president.

And it only gets better:

Read More

Qadhafi in Rome

h_4_ill_1205047_e8ac_157840.jpg.jpeg Italy -- I love Italy, some of my best friends are Italian as they say -- but really how high of a standard can you set for a country run by a gangster who's actually been re-elected despite the many financial and other scandals around him? (Yes I feel the same way about the US and Bush). Still, rather disappointing to see a major European power honor and play host to Muammar al-Qadhafi, now the longest-serving dictator in the world. As always Qadhafi's amusing attire detracts from his brutal record:
Gheddafi è accompagnato da una folta delegazione, comprese le "amazzoni", la celebre guardia del corpo tutta al femminile con baschi rossi e divise militari. Occhiali neri, cappello e alta uniforme, il colonnello non passa inosservato. In particolare le attenzioni (e le polemiche) si sono concentrate su una foto appuntata sulla divisa: ritrae un eroe della resistenza libica contro gli italiani, Omar Al Muktar, noto come il "leone del deserto". Non solo: l'ultimo discendente di Al Muktar, ormai ottantenne, è sbucato dall'aereo subito dopo il leader libico.
Sure, there are a lot of oil and other contracts for the Italians, and many diplomats and grandees from other countries are lining up for those interminable waits at Qadhafi's presidential palaces, beady eyes darting to and fro under sweaty brows as they feverishly imagine all the money there is to be made from this poor, unlucky country. But luckily not all Italians are happy about the half-mad Libyan dictator's visit, and some have made this nice posted telling Qadhafi his tent (he famously travels with his Bedouin tent) is not welcome in Rome. Gheddafi+no+camping.jpg Get the high-rez version here. By the wonderful artist Gianluca Costantini.
Read More