Gaddafi tries to shame Italians
The Libyan leader turned up in Rome with a photo pinned to his chest, designed to provoke his hosts
If there was one world leader who could upstage Silvio Berlusconi in terms of embarrassing behaviour it was Colonel Gaddafi of Libya. And yesterday he duly obliged when he arrived in Rome for a state visit, accompanied by his all-female troupe of 40 bodyguards, turned out in khaki uniforms and red berets, and with a special request for a meeting with 700 Italian women.
This is the sort of thing 'Papi' Berlusconi understands, of course, and a concert hall has been booked so that Italian women prominent in the fields of business, politics and culture arts can be assembled for a speech from the Libyan leader.
But what got Berlusconi's goat was that when Gaddafi came down the aircraft steps at Rome's Ciampino airport, he had a photograph pinned to his chest - a black and white picture of the Libyan resistance leader, Omar Mukhtar, the so-called 'Lion of the Desert', taken on the day before he was hanged by the Italians on September 16, 1931.
Gaddafi insisted on wearing the picture to the various state functions he attended on Wednesday, to remind his hosts that Mukhtar had led the guerilla war against Italy's ambition to open up 'The Fourth Shore' in Libya - in effect, to re-establish a Roman Empire in north Africa. Asked by his executioner if he had any last words, Mukhtar replied only: "From Allah we have come, and to Allah we will return."
It was a mystery why Gaddafi felt the provocative photo was necessary, given that one of the purposes of the trip was to shake hands on Berlusconi's recent agreement to pay £3bn in reparations for Italy's colonial rule of Libya from 1911 until the end of World War Two.Gaddafi praised Berlusconi for having "turned a page on the past". Italy, he said, had apologised and "that is what allowed me to be able to come here today