‘Bush asked Berlusconi to stop bribing Taliban’

Diplomatic cables show top US officials tried to convince Rome to stop paying Afghan tribes in order to safeguard their troops. RT sits down with Gianluca Di Feo of the Italian magazine l’Espresso, which was the first to reveal America’s concerns.

­The cables uncovered by l’Espresso suggest that President Bush personally asked Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to stop bribing the Afghan Taliban after Berlusconi was re-elected in May 2008.

They also quote Ronald Spogli, the US Ambassador, who wrote a memo to Washington in April 2008 promising to “give a strong signal opposing the habit of the past to pay money to obtain protection and to negotiate ransoms for release of kidnapped persons.”

It is a traditional way; all the forces are doing it in Afghanistan,” Di Feo, who is editor-in-chief of l’Espresso magazine, told RT.

The cables released by l’Espresso support the claims made by The Times newspaper in October 2009. Rome vehemently denied those allegations, with Italy’s defense minister even threatening to sue the British newspaper over the claims.

­Italy’s only interest in Libya is oil

­Libya as a significant economic entity presents quite a different question to Rome, says Di Feo. The North African country supplies Italy with oil and gas. Also, many furniture makers in Italy are also dependent on Libya. The Libyan government even owns a share of the UniCredit Bank, which is the biggest financial institution in Italy.

Italy views Libya as a “big chess game between Italy, France and Great Britain to reach the oil and gas fields,” he observes. Rome’s biggest fear in the conflict was that France and the UK would use the rebels to seize Italian assets in the country.

We don’t know who will really control the gas lines and pipe lines. This is the most important question for Italy,” says Di Feo. This shows that the UN’s “humanitarian” mission in Libya is just a diplomatic stunt to cover various political interests.

The aim of the mission was to protect civilians. Yesterday, when there was a rebel attack on Tripoli, what did the NATO mission have to do? To stop the rebels’ attempt to attack the people living in Tripoli!” said Gianluca Di Feo. “The Libyan mission as a humanitarian question is absolute nonsense.

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