Italian students in Rome have clashed with police over the visit by Muammar Gaddafi, accusing the Libyan leader of infringing his own people’s human rights.
So far his presence has been surrounded in controversy and today, as the official trip comes to a close, more protests are expected when he meets with prominent female political and business figures. His speech yesterday to lawmakers, although well received, had to be moved from the Senate after a protest by left-wing senators. Gaddafi was then grilled by university students on the theme of democracy and was pointedly asked when will there be free elections in Libya? His subsequent diatribe included the wish to abolish all political parties in Italy. Although his Italian hosts seem embarrassed, Gaddafi is currently chairman of the African Union and will be back next month for the G8 summit. “Respecting Gaddafi is respecting Africa. And we want to put Africa at the very core of our policy in G8 Italian presidency,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Relations between Gaddafi, who has been in power for four decades, and the West have recently improved since he gave up his quest for weapons of mass destruction. Italy apologised for atrocities during its colonial rule in the north African country and now gets a quarter of its oil from Libya.