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Italy, Libya Celebrate Second Anniversary of 'Friendship Treaty'

  • Sabina Castelfranco

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made a three-day visit to Italy this week to mark the second anniversary of the signing of a Friendship Treaty between Tripoli and Rome. Mr. Gadhafi was given a lavish welcome and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described the treaty as a "model of diplomacy in the era of globalization."

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a triumphant entry at an evening event attended by hundreds of guests. Among them, top government ministers and the cream of the Italian business community.

Italian police and Bedouin-clad riders put on an equestrian show, mounted on 30 thoroughbreds flown in from Libya.

In his remarks at the event, Mr. Berlusconi praised improved relations between Libya and Italy since the 2008 signing of their Friendship Treaty. He said critics were "prisoners of outdated ideas".

For his part, Mr. Gadhafi urged the EU to pay Libya around $6.5 billion a year for Tripoli to stop the waves of illegal African migrants who sail across the Mediterranean. He warned that Europe could otherwise some day turn into Africa with millions of immigrants.

Earlier, at the Libyan Academy in Rome, the two leaders opened a photo show documenting the Italian colonial era in Libya.

Relations between the two nations have flourished since their agreement, in which Italy agreed to pay $5 billion in reparations for Rome's colonial rule of Libya in the early 20th century. Italy is now Libya's biggest trading partner.

Not everyone approved of the Libyan leader's visit or his behavior. Critics accuse Mr. Berlusconi of sacrificing Italy's principles and dignity in favor of trade and investment.

But in the small central Italian town of Antrodoco, there was little criticism. The Libyan leader plans major investments here. He said he was taken by the people's hospitality when he visited during the G8 summit last year.

Maurizio Faina, mayor of the town says that it was a great surprise to hear this from a world leader. For the town, for its image in the world, this is a great opportunity.

Libya has pledged to invest as much as $19 million in Antrodoco, to build a luxury hotel and a bottled water plant.

This small mountain town in the Abruzzo region is enthusiastic about the interest shown by the Libyan leader. People here do not care that he is a controversial figure. They say that he is an important head of state and his money is welcome.

And to honor the colonel, this woman who owns an ice cream parlor in Antrodoco, has come up with a new flavor. She calls it taste of the East, it's made with dates. I hope Colonel Gadhafi will like it and that sooner or later I will have the pleasure of having him taste it.

Antrodoco residents want Gadhafi to come back to their town soon.