EU to discuss giving Libya cash to halt migration: Italy FM

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Italy's foreign minister on Tuesday said the European Union would discuss Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's request for five billion euros (6.3 billion dollars) a year to stop clandestine migration.

"The issue of the five billions has never been examined or discussed. We will tackle it at the European level and I imagine it will be dealt with at the November Euro-African summit in Libya," Franco Frattini told reporters.

"Kadhafi is thinking what all north African leaders are thinking: they can't and don't want to be the keepers of Europe," he added.

"Europe needs to finally get a migration policy, giving plenty of funds to the migrants' countries of origin and helping transitory countries face a huge burden."

Speaking during a visit to Italy, Kadhafi suggested on Monday that the European Union should pay Libya "at least five billion euros a year" to avoid what he called a "black Europe."

To do so would be in the interest of Europe, he said, because otherwise "tomorrow, with the advance of millions of immigrants, could become (another) Africa."

Kadhafi said his plan to "put an end to" illegal immigration was backed by Italy, but Berlusconi did not address the matter.

Earlier on Tuesday, France said cross-Mediterranean migration was an issue that needed to be addressed.

"This issue is part of the broader subject of the negotiation of the EU-Libya deal, which we want to close swiftly," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Since November 2008, the European Union has been negotiating with Libya a broad accord to regulate migration, trade and investment.

Valero said the accord could include credits besides the ones already in place to help Libya deal with clandestine migration.

A spokesman for the European Commission refused to comment on Kadhafi's remarks, but noted that through dialogue and cooperation, the EU was "making all efforts to improve dialogue with Libyan authorities, especially with regard to the prevention of irregular migration flows from Africa."

Kadhafi travelled to Italy to mark the second anniversary of a bilateral friendship treaty signed with Berlusconi that drew a line under the countries' colonial-era relationship.

© 2010 AFP

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