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Kadhafi ‘turns page on past’ with Italy visit

ITALY: Moamer Kadhafi Wednesday kicked off a landmark visit to former colonial master Italy by hailing a new era in ties as the Italian opposition vowed to shun the Libyan strongman’s speech to parliament.

The threat apparently prompted a decision to move Kadhafi’s address on Thursday morning from the upper house’s main chamber to the Senate’s Sala Zuccari. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accorded a red-carpet welcome to Kadhafi and his 200-strong entourage at Rome’s Ciampino airport at the start of the three-day visit to consolidate a friendship treaty signed last year.

Italy and Libya have a “real and deep friendship... based on a common position on international issues and tight cooperation on economic matters,” Berlusconi said at a joint press conference with Kadhafi late Wednesday.

Kadhafi praised Berlusconi for his “bravery in taking this historic decision to apologise to the Libyan people” for Rome’s 1911-47 military occupation and colonisation of Libya.

He said Libyan “martyrs were attacked by (Italy’s wartime dictator Benito) Mussolini just for defending their territory. Many crimes were committed during this era, with thousands deported.” The August 2008 treaty was “not a matter of accounts or dollars but of principles,” Kadhafi said, adding: “Let’s hope other colonial states will follow Italy’s example.”

ROME, Thursday, AFP

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