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By Mahmoud Habboush
TRIPOLI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Italy will help Libyan authorities protect the North African country’s borders and oil facilities, Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib said on Saturday.
“The defence ministers (of Libya and Italy) signed a letter related to creating a system to control borders managed by Libya and provide training, especially for (protecting) oil installations,” Keib told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
“(The letter is) asserting Libyan sovereignty and that no Italian troops will be present,” he said.
Monti is in Libya at the head of a diplomatic, economic and military delegation which is hoping to lay the groundwork for contracts for reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars over the next few years.
Projects include building major roads, expanding and rehabilitating airports and seaports and training the armed forces and police, which need new border security and reconnaissance equipment.
Keib said he did not discuss new oil contracts with his Italian counterpart.
“Libya’s relationship with Italy will be nothing but strong as long as Libyan sovereignty is guaranteed,” Keib said. “We have no problem with dealing with Italy.”
Italy ruled Libya from 1911 until losing control of it in World War II. In August 2008, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed a treaty which included an indirect apology for abuses during Italy’s colonial rule and a promise to pay Libya $5 billion over two decades.
“The apology has been accepted,” Keib said when asked whether Italy needed to apologise for its colonisation.
The two sides said nothing about the future of the 2008 deal, but Libyan officials indicated that it could be reconsidered by future Libyan governments.
“This government ... doesn’t have the power to sign any long term treaties that the Libyan people could reject once an elected government is in place,” Keib said.
The Libyan interim government was appointed in November by the self-appointed but internationally recognised National Transitional Council. (Editing by Tim Pearce)