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Berlusconi to Go Ahead With Libya Visit, Despite Lockerbie Outrage


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is planning to go ahead with a trip to Libya this week to meet with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. International outrage over the warm welcome-home reception given to the convicted Lockerbie bomber who was released from jail in Scotland last week, will not affect the scheduled trip.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is planning to meet with Colonel Leader Moammar Gadhafi on August 30th to mark the first anniversary of a compensation and immigration accord between Italy and Libya. That plan is not changing despite outrage in London and Washington over the warm reception given by Tripoli to terminally ill Lockerbie bomber, who returned to Libya last week.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini put an end to debate on the matter saying the visit is very timely because Mr. Gadhafi is the head of the African Union and has collaborated with Italy on immigration issues.

The immigration accord between Italy and Libya went into effect in May and allows migrants intercepted in international waters and heading to Italy to be sent back to Libya, which is one of the main points of departure on the African coast.

Since the new policy toward such migrants was adopted by Italy, the number of arrivals of in the southern island of Lampedusa has seen a significant drop. But the latest tragedy, in which 73 migrants are believed to have died as they attempted the crossing from Libya, has led to renewed criticism of Italy's policy.

Frattini has said Sicily is paying too high a price just for being the gateway to Europe. He has defended Italy's record in saving the lives of migrants found at sea and said the European Union must share the burden.

Frattini says the European Union, which is now made up of 26 nations, must take on proportional responsibility for the flow of these people, who, he says, are in need of protection.

Prime Minister Berlusconi is expected to address the issue of immigration and Mediterranean collaboration during his meeting with Colonel Ghadafi. He is also expected to lay the first stone of the coastal highway Italy has pledged to build in Libya in compensation for its colonial rule.

Mr. Berlusconi will also be visiting Libya just two days ahead of major celebrations scheduled in Libya to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power.


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