Although the Libyan rebels have insisted that Western nations and NATO leave their country once they have finished defeating Gadhafi’s forces, there is one group of Westerners they’re happy to host: oil company executives.
Already, the New York Times reports, oil companies from Italy, France, Britain, and the United States, among others, have begun preparing for a return to Libya. Most of these companies already had oil exploration agreements with the Gadhafi administration, but it is unclear whether their agreements will be honored by a new rebel government. Still, the rebels appear to look favorably on the Western companies because their countries assisted them in overthrowing Gadhafi.
“We don’t have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” Abdeljalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the Libyan rebel oil company Agoco, was quoted as saying by Reuters. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”
Russia, China and Brazil did not back strong sanctions on the Qaddafi regime, and they generally supported a negotiated settlement to the fighting. All three countries have large oil companies that are seeking deals in Africa for oil reserves.
Of course, the fact that Western oil companies are getting favorable treatment from the new Libyan government casts aspersions on their reason for intervening in Libya in the first place. The United States, which “led from behind,” imports less than 1 percent of its oil from Libya. But countries like France and Italy depend heavily on Libyan oil.
Italy in recent years has relied on Libya for more than 20 percent of its oil imports, and France, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria all depended on Libya for more than 15 percent of their imports before the fighting began. Libya’s importance to France was underscored on Monday when President Nicolas Sarkozy invited the head of the rebels’ national transitional council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, to Paris for consultations.