Rome: Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil was to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today on a visit to Libya’s former colonial ruler after it recognised the opposition to Moamer Gaddafi.
Jalil, a former justice minister who was critical of abuses under Gaddafi, was expected in Rome after a visit to Qatar on his first foreign tour in his new role, as fighting between rebels and regime loyalists rages in Libya.
France, Italy and Qatar are the only countries to recognise the rebels.
The Transitional National Council chief’s visit to Rome will kick off with talks with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini expected to start at 0700 GMT (local time), to be followed by meetings with President Giorgio Napolitano and Berlusconi.
Jalil is also set to meet with representatives of the Catholic charity Sant’Egidio, which has played a major role in conflict mediation in Africa.
Italian policy on Libya has seen some dramatic twists and turns in recent weeks, with growing opposition to the regime despite initially friendly ties between Berlusconi and Gaddafi that have been widely criticised.
Italy is Libya’s top trade partner and the two countries signed a treaty in 2008 that opened the way for billions of euros (dollars) in investments in each other’s economies, many of which have now been suspended.
Italian energy major ENI is also the top foreign oil producer in Libya.
“Italy is extremely worried about the situation for civilians in Libya, particularly in Misrata,” a city that has been under siege from Gaddafi’s forces for almost two months, a foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday.
Maurizio Massari also said that Gaddafi’s exile was “a desirable solution”. Agencies