Italy denies battle with France over Libyan riches

ROME - Italy and France are not engaged in a colonial-style battle to seize Libya’s riches, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview with Rai radio.

“There’s not a race to arrive first in Libya,” Frattini said, rejecting allegations in Italian newspapers of a competition between the two countries for the best contracts in a post-Kadhafi Libya.

“We are forgetting that the protagonists are the Libyan people,” he said, adding: “unlike many other European countries, Italy has asked pardon for the faults of the colonial past” and “does not want to fall back into temptation.”

Frattini said the North African country had “a ruling class, qualified young people, people who have travelled and know the world,” and would not allow itself to be imposed upon by a “colonial presence.”

Italy is different from all the other countries, he said: “Italy is a country with a population which has a deep, reciprocated love for the Libyan people.”

In an interview on the Internet site “IlSussidario.net", the foreign minister added the “Italian military engagement in Libya will continue even after Kadhafi’s capture, as long as circumstances require it.”

Italy will continue to play a key role in post-Gaddafi Libya, in particular regarding infrastructure, energy and telecommunications sectors, as well as on immigration, he said.

“Italy did not become important in Libya just yesterday. There are several decades of history of political friendship, economic exchanges and international collaboration which will continue with the emerging government.”