(Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed an accord on Saturday under which Italy will provide billions of dollars in investments and compensation for its colonial rule of the North African country.
Italy, which ruled Libya from 1911 to 1943, has had difficult relations with Gaddafi since he seized power in 1969. More recently ties have warmed up, and Rome, as Libya’s main diplomatic interlocutor and trading partner in Europe, backed Tripoli’s drive to mend fences with the West.
Italy also imports around 25 percent of its oil from Libya and has a strong business presence there.
Here are some details of Italian relations with Libya since 1900:
* SOME HISTORY:
-- Italian forces landed in Libya in 1911 having declared war on the Ottomans who had established direct rule over part of Libya the year before.
-- During World War One, Libyan resistance to Italian rule began under the leadership of the Sanusiya dynasty and Umar al-Mukhtar. The Italians held only the coastal towns of Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk.
-- In 1920, Muhammad Idris was recognized as the 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.
* WORLD WAR TWO:
-- Allies gradually ousted the Italians from Libya -- the last Axis were driven out in 1943 -- and it was then divided between France and Britain.
-- Libya became independent under King Idris 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. The monarchy was abolished.
* RELATIONS UNDER PRESSURE:
-- In February 2006, 11 people were killed when crowds tried to storm the Italian consulate in Benghazi during protests against Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.
-- Gaddafi said the demonstrations were not over the cartoons but because Libyans hated their former colonial master and wanted compensation for the Italian occupation.
-- Gaddafi said Italy had agreed to pay compensation in 2004 when a pipeline to transport gas across the Mediterranean was inaugurated. He did not say how much compensation he expected and Italy had not given details of the then unfulfilled deal.
-- Italy had been at the forefront of the West’s warming ties with Tripoli since it announced in December 2003 that it would stop pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
-- But their ties have come under pressure again from the flow of illegal immigrants from Libya’s coast to Italy’s south, and the absence of any reparation payments.
Sources: Reuters/Europa Publications
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