Libyan cash may help Italian town beat recession

Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:57am EDT
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By Deepa Babington

ANTRODOCO, Italy (Reuters) - Like countless other small towns across Italy suffering from the economic downturn, Antrodoco has long prayed for an investor with deep pockets to help revive its fortunes.

For a town in the shadow of a mountain where a pine grove spells out "DUX" -- for 20th century fascist dictator Benito Mussolini -- hope has come from an unexpected source: Libya.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has demonstrated a growing interested in Italy for some time and will be visiting Rome for talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday.

Set in green hills on a road between Rome and the Adriatic, the unremarkable town of 3,000 caught Gaddafi's eye when he was on his way to a Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila last year.

Antrodroco's Mayor Maurizio Faina said a Libyan delegation returned later to say Gaddafi, known for his apparently spontaneous decisions, was bowled over by local hospitality and wanted to do something for the town.

The delegation said Libya wanted to invest as much as 15 million euros ($19 million) to build a luxury hotel and a bottled water plant in the town, said a delighted Faina.

This was music to the ears of the mayor, whose town has struggled with rising unemployment, lack of investment and an exodus of its young people.

"The economic crisis is massive at the moment so this is just huge for us. It could really put us on the tourist map," he said, showing photos of Gaddafi in dark glasses surrounded by smiling residents when he stopped here last year. "We were so surprised. Investors are so hard to find these days."   Continued...

<p>Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi meets local school children during a break in the African Union Summit meeting in Uganda's capital Kampala July 26, 2010. REUTERS/Benedicte Desrus</p>