Italy pledges huge aid to Libyan opposition, opens consulate

08:36, June 01, 2011      

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Mustafa Abdul Jalil (L), Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), meets with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Benghazi, Libya, May 31, 2011. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini opened a consulate in the Libyan opposition base of Benghazi and vowed to provide "huge" amounts of financial assistance to the National Transitional Council (NTC) which is running out cash.

"With the official presence of the consulate we are showing flexibility that is necessary after closing the Italian embassy in Tripoli," he said.

Frattini signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NTC's foreign affairs representative Ali Essawy, confirming Rome's recognition of the NTC as the only representative of the Libyan people.

As part of the MoU, the Italian government became the first guarantor for the financial assistance provided to the NTC. Italy' s largest oil company ENI and UniCredit Bank will help provide the NTC with "a huge quantity of fuel and a huge amount of money" to help address the needs of the Libyan people, Frattini said.

The arrival date of and the exact figures of the assistance package are not available.

Frattini also said the billions of euros of frozen Libyan assets held in Italy "can represent a very valid guarantee for the transfer of money to the Libyan people."

The unfreezing of the assets will be discussed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in a contact group meeting in early June to overcome some legal aspects, he added.

Frattini was the latest high-ranking official from west countries to visit Benghazi as the rebels were facing shortage of food, fuel and medicine and complaining that many supporters have not translated pledges of help into actions.

Frattini's visit came a day after eight senior officers, including generals and colonels, defected from the Gaddafi army and security forces officers and appeared in Rome.

Before Frattini, the EU foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton had opened an EU liaison office in Benghazi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as Russian envoys are also expected to visit the opposition stronghold.


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Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
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