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Italy closes consulate office in Benghazi

Jan. 15, 2013 at 9:37 AM

ROME, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Italian government said Tuesday it was temporarily suspending activities at its consulate-general in Benghazi, Libya, following attacks on a staff member.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said Rome has been in contact with Tripoli to express its support for the country's post-war economic and political recovery.

Italy was one of the first countries to lend its support to opponents of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during the country's civil war in 2011. Gadhafi died in late 2011 after falling into rebel hands. Libya since the conflict, however, has witnessed ongoing security problems as its moves to embrace a post-Gadhafi future.

The government said it was closing the consulate general in Benghazi because of security concerns stemming from a weekend attack on Italian Consul General Guido De Sanctis.

Gunmen attacked his vehicle Saturday, though he was uninjured. An attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three of his staff members dead.

"Attempts at destabilization such as Saturday's terrorist attack on Italian Consul General Guido De Sanctis are further proof of the international community's need to intensify support for the Libyan people and institutions," a statement from the ministry read.

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