Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Well, well, well

With the ink not even dry on the foreign ministers’ decision yesterday to lift the embargo on Libya and the race is on to sell Gaddafi some goodies from the arms manufacturers catalogues.

Worth $482 million in 2003, Libya’s defence budget is expected to provide rich pickings for EU member states and leading the sales rush is Italy, which was at the forefront in pushing for the lifting of the embargo.

Coincidentally, Silvio Berlusconi just happened to be in Libya on 7 October, inaugurating with Gaddafi a new Libya-Italy gas pipeline, although Berlusconi was beaten to the post by French foreign minister Michel Barnier, who arrived a day earlier, announcing that Chirac would visit by the end of the year.

Nevertheless, Italy expects to benefit most from the arms-sales bonanza, being particularly keen to sell a fleet of past patrol boats so that the Libyan navy can use to intercept illegal immigrants before they reach Italy. On top of that, Italian companies are looking to sell 42 aircraft equipped with radar, infrared sensors and high-definition TV cameras, to back up the sea patrols.

But, of course, all this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the decision to lift the arms embargo in the first place. That was strictly and exclusively because Gaddafi has decided to renounce WMD – not that he had any in the first place. But there you go…

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