ROME, June 10: Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi began his first visit to former colonial power Italy on Wednesday, brazenly wearing a picture of a legendary resistance hero whom Italian occupiers hanged in 1931.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi welcomed Mr Qadhafi on a trip Rome hopes would close a painful chapter in the two countries’ past. The visit by Mr Qadhafi, his first to Italy since taking power in a 1969 coup, is one of the few in the West since economic sanctions were lifted after Libya vowed to stop sponsoring terrorism.
Rome has pulled out all the stops for Mr Qadhafi, whose North African country supplies a quarter of Italy’s oil and is a source of much-needed capital for Italian companies amid the global financial crisis. A $5 billion reparations deal last year paved the way for the visit.
But, to the chagrin of some of the Italian hosts, Mr Qadhafi arrived with a picture pinned to his chest that was a stark reminder of Italy’s past as a repressive colonial power. To the right of a battery of multi-coloured insignia on his military jacket was a picture of Libyan resistance hero Omar Al-Mukhtar in chains alongside his Italian captors.
And just for good measure Mr Qadhafi brought along Al-Mukhtar’s son, now an elderly man who had to be helped off the plane by a bevy of security men and who later sat in a wheelchair on the tarmac while national anthems were played.
“A long, painful chapter with Libya has been closed,” Mr Berlusconi told reporters at the airport.—Reuters