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

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.