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Italy sent troops to Iraq to secure oil deal: report

ROME - Italian troops were sent to Iraq to secure oil deals worth 300 billion dollars, and not just for post-war humanitarian purposes, an Italian television report by RAI claimed on Friday.

The 20-minute report, broadcast by RAI News 24, the all-news channel of the Italian state-owned network, is based on interviews and official government documents.

In it, the Silvio Berlusconi administration is accused of picking the Nasiriyah area to safeguard a 1997 deal signed by Italy’s largest energy producer, ENI, and former dictator Saddam Hussein.

A government report compiled months before the war broke out recommends that Italy, in case of conflict, should secure the region of Nasiriyah and the nearby area of Halfaya, south of Baghdad, so as to secure “a deal worth 300 billion dollars”.

Both areas are known for its vast oil fields.

According to Benito Livigni, a former manager of ENI and the United States’ Gulf Oil Company, Iraqi’s oil reserves are estimated at 400 billion barrels, far more than the known figure of 116 billion.

If true, this would make Iraq the largest oil producer in the world, ahead of Saudi Arabia, the report says.

Images shown on the report by Sigfrido Ranucci and called “In the name of oil”, show previously unreleased footage of Italian soldiers busy protecting a refinery and a local pipeline in Nasiriyah.

The Italian government has always insisted that it chose to send 3,000 troops to Iraq for purely humanitarian reasons.

A total of 19 Italians, most of them soldiers, died in November 2003 in a suicide bombing against Italy’s base in Nasiriyah.

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