Quarta-feira, 1 de Setembro de 2010

Gaddafi: Old wine in new bottles?

By Diogo Noivo

 

Muammar Gaddafi’s first official visit to Italy took place in June 2009. It happened at a time when the relationship between both countries was in the process of improving significantly: in fact, Italy had become Libya’s main trading partner. Given this particularly positive context, one would expect that Colonel Gaddafi would take the opportunity to narrow differences and mitigate tensions in order to mend bilateral ties and further develop this new, lucrative status quo. However, Colonel Gaddafi has a very particular political rationale: He decided to land in Rome wearing a photo of a Libyan who was executed by Italian colonial authorities. In November of that same year, in another display of his idiosyncrasies, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi invited hundreds of attractive Italian "hostesses" to a villa in Rome for an evening during which he urged them to convert to Islam and told them Christianity was based on a fraud.

Colonel Gaddafi’s official visits and public statements are controversial by definition. Therefore, despite the discomfort caused by Gaddafi’s statements and actions during his last visit to Italy, no one was really surprised. As in 2009, this visit also takes place at an important diplomatic moment for Libya, although for different reasons. Libya is currently under pressure due to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the sole person convicted for the Lockerbie terrorist bomb attack. The veracity of al-Megrahi’s cancer and an alleged deal with BP are some of the many contentious topics surrounding the issue.

Despite every effort to reintegrate Libya into the international community (and the political price the West has paid and still pays for it), Gaddafi did not change his political attitude. Apparently, he is interested in benefiting from international overture without making the slightest political concession.

 

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