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Italy to help Libyan people in priorities: PM

(Xinhua)

10:09, August 26, 2011

MILAN, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Italy is willing to help the Libyan people in priorities they are in urgent need of, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said here on Thursday, following a meeting with Libya's rebel government leader Mahmoud Jibril.

Italy is preparing to release 350 million euros (around 505 million U.S. dollars) worth of Libyan assets frozen in Italian banks as "a first trance," Berlusconi said.

"We are also willing to provide trainers for the police and for the military forces of the new State, and for anything needed in all other sectors, from education to health," he added.

According to the prime minister, the chief executive of the Italian oil giant Eni, Paolo Scaroni, would sign an agreement on Monday in Benghazi with the Libyan transitional council to supply gas for vehicles and natural gas for electricity generation to meet the Libyan people's immediate needs.

Mahmood Jibril warned of dangerous destabilisation without urgent financial help from the West to restore services and pay government salaries.

"The biggest destabilising element would be the failure of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to deliver the necessary services and pay the salaries of the people who have not been paid for months," Jibril told the press conference.

"Our priorities, from energy supply to infrastructures, security and justice cannot be carried out by the government without having the necessary money immediately," added the Libyan leader.

"Italian friends had an important role within the international community in helping the Libyan civilians and our expectation now is that you continue to take care of the Libyan people," he said.

Berlusconi's meeting with Jibril in Milan started just moments after the release of four Italian journalists taken at gunpoint in Libya in a raid on Thursday. "We consider it a good omen for the future," Berlusconi said.

Trade volume between Libya and Italy amounted to 11 billion euros in 2010, obviously down from a pre-economic crisis high of 20 billion euros in 2008. Bilateral trade was halted with the outbreak of the turmoil in Lybia this February.

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