Gadhafi visits Rome, fourth visit in a year, to cement friendship, business ties

By Nicole Winfield, AP
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gadhafi makes 4th visit in a year to Rome

ROME — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi arrived in Rome on Sunday for his fourth visit in a year amid steadily improving business ties with his country’s former colonial ruler.

Gadhafi is in Italy to mark the second anniversary of a friendship treaty in which Italy agreed to pay Libya US$5 billion as compensation for its 30-year occupation, which ended in 1943.

While his schedule in Rome hasn’t been confirmed, news reports suggested he had other appointments as well.

The ANSA news agency reported that some 200 young Italian women arrived Sunday via bus at a Libyan association near the Libyan ambassador’s residence where Gadhafi will be staying.

In November, during Gadhafi’s last trip to Rome, the Libyan leader hosted 200 young women who had been recruited and paid €50 (about $75) by a modeling agency. They didn’t attend a party but rather a lecture on Islam during which they were given copies of the Quran, participants said at the time.

It wasn’t clear if the women arriving near the residence Sunday were in for a similar event.

Separately, the first of some 30 Libyan horses arrived Sunday in Rome to take part in a joint demonstration with Italy’s carabinieri on Monday that is pegged to the treaty anniversary celebrations, news reports said.

Gadhafi made his first visit to Italy last June, proclaiming a new era in relations following the friendship treaty. But that first visit was also marked by a symbolic demonstration that the wounds of colonialism still ran deep: He arrived wearing a black-and-white photo pinned to his military uniform of a Libyan national hero killed by Italian colonial authorities.

Gadhafi sported no such photo upon arrival Sunday at Rome’s Ciampino airport, where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Despite the colonial past, Italy and Libya have long had good ties, and major Italian corporations such as oil giant Eni have invested heavily in the oil-and-gas rich country. Libya’s central bank, meanwhile, has a 4 percent share in Italy’s largest bank UniCredit, which earlier this month won the first international license to operate in the North African country.

will not be displayed