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Silvio Berlusconi in Libya

By BBC
By BBC

8/31/2009 3:46:06 PM -

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in Libya to celebrate the anniversary of a friendship pact signed last year.  But he will not attend events marking the 40th anniversary of the military coup d'etat that brought Muammar Gaddafi to power in 1969.  Mr. Berlsuconi's government has agreed to pay five billion dollars in the next twenty years to compensate Libya for wrongs committed during its colonial occupation.  

The two countries have agreed to put behind them the memories of injustices suffered by Libya in the early part of the 20th Century, and the subsequent painful expulsion of tens of thousands of Italian settlers.  During his one-day stay in Tripoli, Mr. Berlusconi will lay the foundation stone of a new super highway linking Tunisia to Egypt and running along the entire two-thousand kilometer of Libya's Mediterranean coastline.  

The Libyan government has invited some three hundred Italian former settlers and their family members back to Tripoli for the celebrations, during which they will be allowed to visit family graves.  Meanwhile some left-wing Italian politicians have criticized Mr. Berlusconi's decision to seek ever closer relations with Libya.