By Dario Thuburn (AFP) – Apr 19, 2011
ROME — Moamer Kadhafi can only be toppled by force, Libya's rebel president said Tuesday during a visit to Rome in which Italy said the opposition could be aided with military equipment and foreign oil sales.
"Kadhafi will never give up power except by force," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said after talks with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during his first foreign tour since becoming head of Libya's Transitional National Council.
Jalil thanked France, Italy and Qatar -- the three countries that have officially recognised Libya's opposition. Asked by reporters about future oil contracts, he said: "Our decisions will be influenced by who helped us."
"There will be friendship and cooperation above all with Italy, France and Qatar," he said.
Jalil visited Qatar on Monday and is to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- the first to recognise the opposition -- on Wednesday.
Jalil also met Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and top business executives in Rome.
Frattini said Italy would host international talks in early May aimed at helping rebel-held eastern Libya with financial and military aid.
Frattini cited Jalil as saying that 10,000 people had been killed and up to 55,000 wounded in the conflict so far.
A meeting of the international contact group on Libya in Rome will discuss "legal instruments to allow the sale of oil products," Frattini said.
The meeting would also try to find ways of using assets owned by Kadhafi's regime that have been frozen around the world in order to aid the rebels and would discuss the thorny issue of arming the Libyan rebels, he said.
"We have condemned the violence of the regime in the streets, we have condemned the use of snipers in Tripoli and in the besieged cities.... We can't say this is not our problem," Frattini said.
Italy was weighing the possibility of sending "night-vision equipment, radars and technology to block communications," he said.
"We don't have many alternatives. One of the alternatives is the use of ground troops. Italy is not in favour of sending ground troops," he said.
"There is still no defined political way out... There have been many initiatives. The regime is still engaged as an active interlocutor in an attempt to find a succession to itself. This is not acceptable," he added.
Frattini also said economic sanctions on the Kadhafi regime were beginning to have an effect and called on more countries to recognise the rebels.
Libya was an Italian colony between 1911 and 1942 and had enjoyed close ties with Kadhafi in recent years. Friendly relations between the Libyan leader and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi were particularly controversial.
Initially cautious after the start of the uprising against Kadhafi's regime, Italy's foreign policy gradually evolved into openly calling for him to quit power and it is now taking an active part in military operations.
Italy is currently Libya's top trade partner and the two countries signed a treaty in 2008 that paved the way for billions of euros (dollars) in investments in each other's economies, many of which have now been suspended.
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