ROME (Dow Jones)–Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Saturday trip to Libya aims to maintain Italy’s privileged ties with the hydrocarbon-rich former colony . . .[restrict]after the end of the four-decade old regime, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.
Monti will meet Libya’s Prime Minister Abel Rahim al-Kib in Tripoli in what is the first “structured” visit by a head of state to the North African country after Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime collapsed in last year’s civil war, the person said.
“Italy has a privileged relationship with Libya but it isn’t exclusive as it [Libya] is open to other countries,” said the person, referring to those nations, such as France and the U.K., that backed the rebels against Gadhafi’s forces.
Monti’s visit will center more on how Italy can help Libya to deal with the country’s needs after the devastating civil war, said the person. Later, Italy will seek to promote commercial and business links.
Italy is working on a visit in February by Industry Minister Corrado Passera and companies that are interested in conducting business in the North African country, the person added.
Italy ruled Libya from 1911 until World War II. Since then the former colonial power has been the biggest trading partner of Libya, with Italian energy company Eni SpA (E) positioning itself to become the foreign oil company with the largest operations in Libya.
The 2008 “friendship” treaty signed between the two countries appears now to be on the back burner as within the Libyan governing forces there are differing opinions on how much it should be part of the relationship between Italy and Libya, the person said.
Last month, Monti and the head of Libya’s National Transition Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said they would revive the “friendship” treaty between the two countries that was signed under Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Italy is still committed to $5 billion to be paid to Libya over 20 years as compensation of the colonial occupation, the person said. The money had been set aside for the construction of a highway along the Libyan coast.
Eni is slated Saturday to sign a memorandum of understanding with Libya’s National Oil Company worth $380 million on social projects in the health sector and cultural training, the person said.
Italy’s defense ministry will also sign accords in Tripoli during Monti’s visit for the training of some Libyan military personnel in Italy, as well as send about 100 soldiers to train the military of the North African country, said the person.
There will also be the signing of fishing and customs agreements between the two countries, he added.
-By Liam Moloney, Dow Jones Newswires; +39 06 6976 6924; [email protected] [/restrict]