ROME - Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, continuing a war of words between Rome and Paris, said on Monday that France had no interest in bringing calm to violence-ravaged Libya because of its energy interests.
Relations between Italy and France, traditionally close allies, have grown frosty since the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement formed a coalition last year and took aim at pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron.
France's foreign ministry on Monday summoned Italy's ambassador after Salvini's fellow deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, accused Paris of creating poverty in Africa and generating mass migration to Europe.
Salvini backed up Di Maio, saying France was looking to extract wealth from Africa rather than helping countries develop their own economies, and pointed particularly to Libya, which has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew strongman Mummar Gathafi.
"In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy," Salvini told Canale 5 TV station.
Italy's Eni and France's Total have separate joint ventures in Libya, but Eni's CEO Claudio Descalzi denied in a newspaper interview last year that there was any conflict with Total over energy sources in the north African state.
Salvini is head of the League, while Di Maio leads 5-Star. Both are campaigning hard for European parliamentary elections in May and are looking to show they have broken with the more consensual politics of mainstream centre-left and centre-right parties.