Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has been given a mixed reception on his first official visit to former colonial power Italy. A speech to lawmakers due to take place in the Senate was moved to a nearby building after a protest by left-wing senators.
Nevertheless, Rome pulled out all the stops for the Libyan leader, with whom it hopes to forge even stronger ties. Italy already imports one third of its energy from Libya. On his relation with Rome, Gaddafi praised the former colonial power for apologising for the hardships suffered and for paying out compensation. In return, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had these words: “Mr Gaddafi will be able to contribute, I’m sure, to addressing global issues like mass migration, and how to help poorer countries. And I think what is very important is to show Africa that we consider Africa as an opportunity not a problem.” However, Gaddafi later received a much cooler welcome at Rome’s La Sapienza University, where students called the Italian and Libyan leaders “merchants of death.” They were making reference to a recent deal between the two countries allowing Italy to deport illegal immigrants back to Libya. Gaddafi, who has been in power for four decades, has repeatedly been criticised for his human rights record.