Just when it looked like no one was going to take the side of Moammar Gadhafi, an oil executive has stepped up.

In the wake of the United Nations Security Council resolution that called for military action against Gadhafi's forces, the leader of an Italian oil giant has verbally come to Gadhafi’s side.

Paolo Scaroni, the head of Eni SpA, a huge oil company that operates in more than 70 countries, said that Europe “was shooting itself in the foot,” and endangering its energy security by taking action against the dictator and his regime. Scaroni’s perspective may not be one that those fighting for freedom in Libya share. But, to be fair, none of those folks run oil companies.

The Wall Street Journal did a great job this week of explaining the difficult situation many oil companies find themselves in as Africa’s largest oil-producing nation faces more isolation. The WSJ story acknowledged the challenges of doing business there, but said complaining about the situation is as bad a public relations move as Gadhafi’s recent political moves have been.

"Companies that go grovelling back to Gadhafi are not going to look great in the eyes of Western public opinion," said Samuel Ciszuk, a North Africa energy expert at IHS Global Insight. "It's going to be a very uncertain environment for them."

Prior to all this unrest, Italy had strong relationship with Gadhafi’s Libya, but the country has scaled down its ties. As Gadhafi learns to cope with losing some friends, it seems he has his eyes on others. "That is why we would like to invite companies from Russia, China and India to invest in our oil production and construction industries," he said in the WSJ story.

It’s good to know that even the most unpopular leaders will always have a few pals — as long as they have oil.

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