NAPLES, June 17 (Reuters) - Italy signed an accord with the head of Libya’s interim rebel government on Friday to jointly tackle a migration crisis triggered by the violence.
Thousands of people have fled Libya since an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule began in February. Many have attempted to cross the Mediterranean and reach Italy on unsafe boats and hundreds have died in the attempt.
Italy’s Franco Frattini and Mahmoud Jebril, leader of National Transitional Council (NTC), agreed to exchange information on illegal migration and the organised criminal networks that encourage it, as well as cooperate on repatriating migrants.
“This accord shows how close the collaboration is between Italy and the NTC ... and how serious the NTC considers cooperation with countries that have recognised it,” Frattini said at a news conference in Naples.
Italy threw its full support behind Libyan rebels in April, recognising them as the only legitimate representatives of the country and promising to supply them with weapons.
Rome, the former Libyan colonial power, has urged other countries in the anti-Gaddafi coalition to recognise the NTC.
Before NATO operations began in Libya, its government had an agreement with Rome to take back migrants removed from Italian territory. Gaddafi had demanded more EU funding to help stem the flow of migrants.
He warned governments in March that millions of immigrants would try to reach Italy and France without Libya as a partner. (Reporting by Laura Viggiano, writing by Catherine Hornby)