Italy's Berlusconi calls for democratic change in Libya

AFP , Saturday 5 Mar 2011

Berlusconi has called for democratic change in Libya but has warned against an indiscriminate freeze on Libyan state assets

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Helsinki on Friday, Italian Prime Minsster Berlusconi said he hoped for "change like that in Tunisia and Egypt towards a democracy" that would allow Italy and Libya to keep their important economic ties.

When asked whether Italy was considering freezing Libyan state assets in line with sanctions imposed on Muamer Gaddafi and his inner circle by the United Nations and the European Union, the premier called for caution.

"We have to distinguish carefully between the stakes that belong to the Libyan people and those that belong to one family in particular," he said.

Libya has up to 3.6 billion euros ($4.9 billion) worth of shares in Italian businesses, Il Sole 24 business daily said last week.

Tripoli owns 7.582 percent of UniCredit -- between the Libyan Investment Authority's 2.594 percent and the central bank of Libya's 4.988 percent -- making it the Italian bank's biggest shareholder.

Libya also owns 2.01 percent of defence and aerospace group Finmeccanica and 7.5 percent of the Juventus football club in Turin, through the Libyan Arab Investment Company.

According to Il Corriere della Sera daily, the north African country also owns 0.7 percent of Italian energy firm ENI.

The biggest foreign energy major in Libya, ENI has cut its oil and gas production in the country by more than 50 percent due to the ongoing unrest.

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