updated 6/6/2007 8:25:33 AM ET 2007-06-06T12:25:33

Colony Capital LLC will buy a majority stake in energy company Tamoil and Oilinvest from the Libyan government in a deal worth about $5.4 billion, the private investment firm said Wednesday.

The Libyan government will retain a 35 percent stake in the combined company, Colony said in a statement.

Tamoil owns and operates over 3,000 service stations in Europe, is a market leader in Italy and has oil refineries in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Germany.

The agreement is another sign that Libya is emerging from its international isolation after it agreed to scrap its secret nuclear weapons program and compensate victims of terrorist attacks.

Last week, BP PLC signed an exploration and production deal with the African nation's National Oil Co., worth at least $900 million, that brings BP back to Libya for the first time in more than 30 years.

Libya's proven oil reserves are the ninth largest in the world, while vast areas remain unexplored for new deposits. Since the country emerged from international isolation, western firms have rushed to sign exploration deals.

Colony Capital, founded in 1991 by Chairman Thomas Barrack Jr., is a private investment firm focusing primarily on real estate-related assets, securities and operating companies.

The company is based in Los Angeles and has offices in New York and Paris.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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