Italy and Libya plan to sign the first security cooperation
accord between a European Union member and the North African state.
Italian officials said the agreement will be signed in Tripoli over the
next few days during a visit by an Italian security delegation to Libya.
They said the accord includes joint naval exercises, the sale of Italian
security systems to Libya and the exchange of intelligence.
On Wednesday, Italy and Libya began security cooperation talks meant to
halt illegal immigration to southern Europe, Middle East Newsline reported. Italian Interior Minister
Giuseppe Pisanu was scheduled to discuss details of what Italy said has been
an agreement to protect the Italian and Libyan coasts.
Officials said Pisanu's visit was the first by a European Union
security official to Libya since 1988, when Europe imposed an embargo on
Tripoli. The United Nations froze sanctions against Libya in 1999.
Italy has been preparing troops for deployment in Libyan ports to stem
the flow of illegal migrants to southern Europe, officials said. They said
negotiations with Libya were nearly complete.
Libya has acknowledged discussing the issue of a halt in illegal
immigration from North Africa. But Libyan officials denied that Italian
troops or security forces would be stationed in Libya.
"We will not accept an [Italian] military presence on our territory."
Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgham said.
Libya is said to be a major route for illegal migration from Africa to
Europe. Officials estimate that 1.5 million immigrants arrive annually to
Libya to board ships for Europe.
Shalgham said the discussions with Italy include Libyan procurement of
air and naval systems to help Tripoli stem the wave of illegal migrants. He
said this could include the export of Italian fast patrol boats and
helicopters. In May, Italy submitted a request to the EU for the sale of
patrol boats to Libya.
"We need at least 50 helicopters to patrol our 4,000 kilometers of
desert frontier and our 2,000 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline,"
Last month, more than 200 illegal migrants drowned while trying to cross
the Mediterranean to
Italy. Italian Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi has told the Senate that
Italian warships would patrol Libyan territorial waters.