Tripoli, March 16 (IANS/AKI) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says he feels betrayed by Europe but is especially dismayed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with whom he has the closest ties.
“I’m really shocked by the behaviour of my European friends, in the first place by Silvio Berlusconi,” he said in an interview published Tuesday in Italian daily Il Giornale, which is owned by the Berlusconi family.
“I’m so shocked. I feel betrayed. I don’t know what to say to Berlusconi,” he said.
Italy has frozen assets owned by Libya to conform with sanctions implemented by the UN and the European Union after Gaddafi’s armed forces fired on anti-government protesters. The conflict has since escalated and is described by the Red Cross as civil war.
After scrapping its covert nuclear weapons programme and making payments to family members of the hundreds of people killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, international sanctions against Libya were lifted and Gaddafi was let back into the diplomatic fold, awarding lucrative contracts to oil companies, especially Italy’s Eni.
Berlusconi stood out among European leaders by inviting Gaddafi to visit Italy numerous times, even kissing his hand and making him a special guest during the 2009 Group of Eight meeting in L’Aquila.
Italy is Libya’s biggest trading partner, importing around 25 percent of its oil and 12 percent of its natural gas from the country. Italian businesses were also granted preferential treatment for taxes and imports as part of a controversial ‘friendship’ pact signed in 2008.
Italy last month suspended the pact, under which it had agreed to pay five billion euros in reparations to Libya for its 1911-1943 occupation and colonisation of the country and to build Libya a new highway.
Joint patrols of the Libyan coast to intercept people-smuggling boats transporting migrants to Italian shores were also put on hold.
Rome-based Eni Friday said its gas and oil production in Libya would soon come to a halt as Libyan and rebel forces fight for territorial gains in the North African country.
Prior to the crisis Eni was producing around 280,000 barrels of Libyan oil per day, out of the country’s total daily output of around 1.6 million barrels.
Gaddafi Monday urged Russia, China and India to invest in his country’s oil industry while world powers edged closer to imposing a no-fly zone.
As members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China can veto any UN measure to impose a no-fly zone.
Gaddafi said he would consider new contracts for oil and gas exploration with companies from Italy and other European counties, but only when Berlusconi and other leaders have been swept from power.
“When your government is substituted by the opposition and the same thing happens in the rest of Europe, the Libyan people may consider forming a new relationship with the West,” Gaddafi told Il Giornale.