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Italy Responds to Gadhafi Threats

Italy's foreign minister, Gianfranco Fini, says Libya's "not-so veiled intimidation and threats" do not frighten Italy. He was reacting to an interview in which Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said new protests could be expected against Italy. Last month, at least 10 people were killed outside the Italian consulate in Benghazi during a protest over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

Foreign minister Fini was quick to react to an interview with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi broadcast on Italy's SKY TG24 channel. Fini said the not-so veiled intimidation and threats made by the Libyan leader do not frighten Italy and added that Libya should act coherently in resolving past disputes and in granting credits to Italian companies in Libya and visas to Italian nationals.

In the interview broadcast Monday, the Libyan leader insisted that Italy must make amends for its colonial rule through economic compensation and warned that new violent protests could be expected against Italian citizens and interests in Libya.

Gadhafi said: "Unfortunately new protests are to be expected. It is out of our control." He said ordinary Libyans expressed what was in their hearts, rejecting suggestions that extremists were behind the incidents in Benghazi.

The Italian minister said Mr. Gadhafi's suggestion that there would be more tension contrasts plainly with the "willingness, many times reiterated by the Libyan leader, to contribute to further improve traditional relations of Italian-Libyan friendship."

With elections in Italy less than three weeks away, Gadhafi said Libya would cooperate with whatever government emerges from the poll.

Mr. Gadhafi also addressed a number of international issues, including the conflict in Iraq. He said the trial of former president Saddam Hussein is illegal, and he should be released. He also said the United States should consider withdrawing from Iraq.

"The Iraq operation, "Gadhafi said, "is not in the interest of the United States. The people there have seen Americans killed, defeated and even fleeing and this encourages all Arabs because they realize the United States can be defeated."