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Italy pays price for close links to Libya

Italy pays price for close links to Libya
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The turmoil in Libya is hitting Italy more than any other European country. A third of its oil comes from Libya, which is a former Italian colony, and there are strong business links between them.

High petrol prices – with unleaded at a record 1.59 euros a litre – are making Italian drivers angry.

At a service station in Rome, one complained: “It is difficult, the situation is terrible.” Another filling up his car said: “It is difficult because we import so much from Libya and we are being held hostage by events in that country.”

There is a web of commercial interests between the two counties with Libya using oil earnings to buy stakes in Italian companies while Italian firms have won infrastructure and energy contracts there – all now at risk.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other top officials who fawned over Gaddafi during his three visits to Italy in two years are now saying little.

And unlike other European capitals, Rome has made clear that it is not considering unilaterally freezing Libyan holdings in Italian companies at present.