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Libya, Italy to sign compensation deal

Libya and Italy will soon seal a deal worth "billions" to compensate for the European country's three-decade colonial rule, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's influential son said.

"In the next weeks, Libya will sign a deal with Italy on compensation for the colonial period. This deal...amounts to billions," Saif al Islam told an official gathering in Tripoli.

Saif did not specify a currency when he mentioned the figure of billions.

The accord involves several projects including a motorway across Libya, education and clearing mines dating back to the colonial era, he said a speech broadcast on state television.

In Rome, an Italian foreign ministry spokesman said the signing of the accord was not imminent.

"The negotiations are at a good point but some important aspects have not yet been defined," he said.

Italy, which ruled Libya from 1911 to 1943, has had difficult relations with Gaddafi since he took power in 1969.

In 1970, Gaddafi expelled Italian residents and confiscated their property. But ties have warmed in recent years and Rome, as Libya's main diplomatic interlocutor and trading partner in Europe, backed Tripoli's drive to mend fences with the West.

Both countries have long sought a deal on compensation for Italy's colonial policies, which included the deportation of thousands of Libyans to Italy.

Italy imports around 25 percent of its oil and 33 percent of its gas from Libya and has a strong business presence there.

Ties have been under pressure from the flow of illegal immigrants from Libya's coast to Italy's south, and the absence so far of any reparation payments.

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