Italy agreed to pay Libya $5 billion as compensation for its 30-year occupation of the country during the 20th century, the Libyan foreign minister told reporters Saturday.
Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said that visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is set to sign a memorandum pledging a $5 billion compensation package involving construction projects, student grants, and pensions for Libyan soldiers who served with the Italians during the Second World War.
"It is a material and emotional recognition of the mistakes that our country has done to yours during the colonial era," Berlusconi told reporters at the airport on his arrival. "This agreement opens the path to further cooperation."
In return, Italy wants Libya to crack down on illegal migrants turning up on Italian shores and will fund US$500 million worth of electronic monitoring devices on the Libyan coastline.
Italy to hand over statusLibyan leader Moammar Gaddafi received Berlusconi under a big tent in Benghazi where they discussed the agreement over lunch. The Italian leader said US$200 million of the package would be for infrastructure projects over the next 25 years, including a coastal highway stretching across the country from Tunisia to Egypt.
Berlusconi's office said in a statement that the premier would also hand over to Gadhafi the Venus of Cyrene, an ancient Roman statue taken in 1913 by Italian troops from the ruins of the Greek and Roman settlement of Cyrene, on the Libyan coast.
Relations between the two countries have warmed over the last few years, with Italian leaders meeting Gaddafi several times. However it has taken years of negotiations for the two sides to hammer out a deal on compensation for Italy's rule over Libya from 1911 to 1943 Libya named Aug. 30, Libyan-Italian Friendship Day.