London - Britain’s help in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi will never be forgotten and British companies can expect to play an instrumental role in rebuilding Libya, a senior diplomat told British executives on Tuesday.
“I would like to thank the British people and their government for their invaluable support,” Mahmud Nacua, a long-time Libyan exile and now charge d’affaires at the country’s embassy in London, told a private meeting of businessmen arranged by the British government.
“I can assure you that British businesses have a role to play and hope you will work with us to build the future Libya,” Nacua told the meeting, attended by about 100 executives and closed to media other than Reuters.
However, Stephen Green, a former head of bank HSBC and now Britain’s trade and investment minister, warned delegates they should take nothing for granted in their dealings with Libyans.
“They are not naive, they expect it to be profitable to us, but they’re not going to do us any favours. It will be competitive,” Green told delegates.
British and French companies are hoping the support their governments showed for anti-Gaddafi forces will give them a head start in Libya, where high quality oil reserves and damage to infrastructure mean lucrative contracts could be up for grabs.
Firms have not been resting on their laurels, however, with executives telling Reuters - invariably on condition of anonymity - they had representatives on the ground in Libya weeks ago when fighting was still fierce.
Green said his office, UK Trade and Investment, had two staff operating in Libya and planned to bolster that to 10 in the coming weeks and months.
“They (Libyans) are determined that this will be the turning of the page into a completely new era... It would be ridiculous of us not to rise to this opportunity,” Green said.