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August 22, 2011

Italy's PM to Meet Libyan Rebel Leader

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected to meet with the chief Libyan rebel-leader Mahmoud Jibril on Wednesday in Milan.  The meeting is expected to take place as Jibril travels to or back from Paris, where he is to meet with French authorities.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says he expects contracts held by Italian companies in Libya will be respected by a new government that takes over if rebels overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.

Italy was Moammar Gadhafi’s closest European ally until it switched support to the rebels in April.  Now it is hoping to revive extensive business links with its former colony once the conflict ends.

Italian authorities say Moammar Gadhafi and his son should be captured and tried by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.  Longtime Libyan Ambassador to Rome Hafed Gaddur, who has switched sides to join the rebels, says Colonel Gadhafi must be brought to trial for crimes committed against his people.

Italy’s Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa  says his country  has always hoped for Gadhafi to give up power voluntarily in Libya and continues to hope for this.  He says Italy also hopes that by the end of September Libya will be completely in the hands of a new government, which will then carry out a transition to a completely democratic system.

Ambassador Gaddur says Colonel Gadhafi is very unlikely to surrender, adding that he will either escape or be captured.  He said he hopes Gadhafi's capture occurs soon so Libya’s transition can begin with the establishment of a provisional government.  

He says this will be in the first step towards setting up a constituent assembly.  Then, once a constitution is approved, free and fair elections will be able to be held.

Gaddur says Italy remains a privileged partner of its former colony.  Italian interests include oilfields and multi-billion-dollar contracts in the defense and construction sectors.