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Italy closes consulate in Benghazi after attack on consul

ROME — Italy closed its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and withdrew its staff because of security concerns, following an attempted ambush of the Italian consul over the weekend.

Although the diplomat, Guido De Sanctis, escaped unharmed, the episode raised concerns about the tenuous security situation in Libya as the transitional government struggles to rebuild the country after the overthrow of Moammar Khadafy nearly two years ago.

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The Italian Foreign Ministry said the attack was an attempt to disrupt the Libyan government’s efforts, ‘‘further proof of the international community’s need to intensify support for the Libyan people and institutions.’’

In the ambush, gunmen fired on De Sanctis as he drove through Benghazi, but none of the bullets penetrated his armored vehicle, which was issued to him after the Sept. 11 assault on the US mission in Benghazi.

Officials in Tripoli pledged to bring those responsible for Saturday’s attack to justice, the Italian government said. But the Libyan government has done little or nothing to pursue those who assaulted the US mission, and there have been attacks on the Red Cross and on a British envoy’s motorcade in Benghazi over the past year.

Italy, which ruled Libya as a colony until World War II, is the country’s closest European ally.

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