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FACTBOX: Italian relations with Libya
June 11, 2009 / 2:34 PM / 8 years ago

FACTBOX: Italian relations with Libya

(Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, on his first visit to Italy, hailed the former colonial ruler for apologizing for its past.

Gaddafi faced protests by students during the visit and said the world had not rewarded Libya for giving up its ambitions to have weapons of mass destruction.

Italy, which ruled Libya from 1911 to 1943, has had difficult relations with Gaddafi since he seized power in 1969 but ties have warmed in recent years.

Here are some details of Italian relations with Libya:

COLONIZATION:

* Italian forces landed in Libya in 1911 after Rome declared war on the Ottoman Empire, which had established direct rule over part of Libya the year before.

* During World War One Libyans resisted Italian rule under the leadership of the Sanusiya dynasty and Umar al-Mukhtar. The Italians were able to hold only the coastal towns of Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk.

* In 1920 Italy recognized Muhammad Idris as ruler of the interior oases in an agreement known as the Accord of al-Rajma. Two years later Count Volpi was appointed governor of all Libya and in 1928 Marshal Badoglio became Governor-General.

* An Italian royal decree named the country Libya in 1934.

WAR THEN INDEPENDENCE:

* The allied powers ousted fascist Italy from Libya by 1943 and it was then divided between France and Britain.

* Libya became independent under King Idriss in 1951. He was overthrown on Sept 1, 1969 by Muammar Gaddafi and nationalist officers who staged a bloodless military coup while the king was in Turkey. They abolished the monarchy.

RECENT RELATIONS - UPS AND DOWNS:

* Italy has remained Libya’s main European trading partner, imports around 25 percent of its oil and 33 percent of its gas from the north African country and has a strong business presence there.

* Italy has been at the forefront of the West’s warming ties with Tripoli since Libya announced in December 2003 that it would stop pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

* An Italian minister quit the Berlusconi government in 2006 after wearing a T-shirt with a Danish cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad that angered Muslims worldwide. He was blamed for rioting that broke out at Italy’s consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

* Bilateral ties have come under pressure in recent years because of the growing number of illegal immigrants crossing to southern Italy from Libya. In December 2007 Italy and Libya signed an accord to carry out joint sea patrols to crack down on the human trafficking.

* In August 2008 Berlusconi signed a landmark deal in Benghazi under which Italy was to pay $5 billion in compensation for its colonial misdeeds during its rule over Libya. “In this historic document, Italy apologizes for its killing, destruction and repression against Libyans during the colonial rule,” Gaddafi said.

Sources: Reuters/Europa Publications

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit

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