* Eni, Italian builders, Finmeccanica gain on contract hopes
* Libyan rebel envoy sees contracts revived after govt named
* Italy PM to meet Libyan rebel leader Wednesday or Thursday
(Adds comments by Libyan rebel envoy)
By Deepa Babington
ROME, Aug 23 Libya will honour all its contracts
with Italian companies in a post-Muammar Gaddafi era, the rebel
Libyan envoy to Rome and Italy's government said, in a boost for
companies ranging from Eni to Finmeccanica .
Italy has stepped up efforts to safeguard huge interests in
its former colony that range from oilfields to the defence and
construction sectors as the Libyan conflict appeared to enter
its final stages with a rebel advance into Tripoli.
Analysts have questioned whether Italy's initial hesitancy
in supporting the rebels could put the country's previously
close business ties with Libya at risk and warn that even with
rebel assurances, little is guaranteed in a post-Gaddafi Libya.
But Libya's powerful envoy to Rome, Hafed Gaddur, who helped
broker many of the deals between Italy and Gaddafi's Libya over
the years, said the contracts would have to be respected since
they were agreed between two states rather than two governments.
"Italy and Libya are two close countries and all the accords
signed are in the interests of the two populations and the two
states, and therefore all the contracts that were signed will be
confirmed," Gaddur, who defected in February and backed the
rebel movement, told Reuters.
The contracts will come back into force when a provisional
government is installed for all of Libya, Gaddur said.
Italy's government also said it was confident.
"They've agreed to honour all contracts, including those
with Italian companies," Italian Foreign Minister Franco
Frattini told Italian radio, referring to the Benghazi-based
"Italy's contracts are with Libya, not with Gaddafi."
Shares of Italian companies with operations in Libya - like
energy firm ENI and defence operator Finmeccanica - surged this
week on hopes the Libyan conflict was almost over and they would
Once Gaddafi's closest European ally, Rome has aggressively
courted the rebels since abruptly switching sides to back them
in April after a NATO bombing campaign began.
Italy has since opened a consulate in Benghazi and pledged
financial support to the rebels.
Frattini said he had already agreed with the rebel council
on broad cooperation.
"I've personally signed an agreement -- they are general
understandings -- on cooperation between the Italian government
and the provisional Libyan government, which will become the new
government of Libya," he said.
A 2008 friendship treaty signed between the two nations that
includes a $5 billion reparations deal for colonial rule and a
plan for Italian companies to build a major highway will also be
revived, he said. It was suspended when the conflict began.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could meet Libyan rebel
leader Mahmoud Jibril in Italy as early as Wednesday or on
Thursday, Frattini said.
Berlusconi had carefully nurtured a warm personal
relationship with Gaddafi in the last few years, allowing Italy
to become one of Libya's biggest trading and business partners.
Eni, present in Libya since the 1950s, is Libya's biggest
foreign oil operator with production contracts that run until
2042 and gas contracts for up to 2047. Frattini has said Eni
staff are already in Libya to try to restart oil facilities in a
bid to remain the country's top foreign player.
In addition, Libya owns some 7.5 percent of Italy's biggest
bank, UniCredit , around 1 percent of Eni and some 2
percent of Finmeccanica, which had been banking on Libya as a
key emerging market to boost revenues.
Italian builders like Impregilo and oil services
company Saipem had been expected to be among other big
beneficiaries of Libyan contracts before the conflict began.
For a factbox on investment ties between Italy and Libya,
(Editing by Barry Moody and David Cowell)