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Gaddafi tells Italy to scrap political parties
Thu Jun 11, 2009 5:02pm EDT
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By Stephen Brown and Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, addressing Italians in a historic Rome square, embarrassed his hosts on Thursday by saying he would abolish political parties and give Italians direct power if it were up to him.
"There would be no right, left or center. The party system is the abortion of democracy," Gaddafi said in a sunset address in the famous Campidoglio square designed by Michelangelo atop Capitoline hill.
"I would abolish political parties so as to give power to the people," said the idiosyncratic Gaddafi, while some members of the crowd held up pictures of the Libyan leader and banners welcoming him.
His angry host, right-wing Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno -- who had praised the Libyan leader an hour earlier -- told reporters Gaddafi's discourse on political parties was "unacceptable" and that "we don't accept lessons on democracy from anyone."
Gaddafi also praised Italy for condemning fascism after the colonial period. Alemanno, standing beside him, was once the youth leader of a neo-fascist party and sparked controversy last year by refusing to label fascism as evil.
Earlier in the day Gaddafi, making his first visit to the former colonial power, faced protests by students over his human rights record and over a bilateral agreement for Italy to send back boatloads of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
The students tried to stop him giving a lecture at a Rome university, hurling paint and scuffling with police.
He told the students terrorism was "the residue of colonialism."
"Terrorism is to be condemned and most victims (of terrorism) are innocent and unarmed," Gaddafi said. But the world community had to look at the root causes of terrorism, such as injustice, he added.
The North African nation, once a pariah accused of sponsoring terrorism, has seen a thaw in its relations with the West since Gaddafi promised to give up the quest for weapons of mass destruction. International sanctions were lifted in 2003.
Italy, which last year apologized for Italian atrocities during its 1911-1943 colonial rule, is at the forefront of the diplomatic thaw and now gets a quarter of its oil from Libya, and more recently Libyan capital injections into Italian firms.
But Gaddafi retains a defiant tone, arriving on Wednesday in Rome with a picture pinned to his uniform of Omar al-Mukhtar, a resistance hero hanged by Italian occupiers in 1931.
Italian television on Thursday screened "Lion of the Desert," a 1981 film about al-Mukhtar which was banned in Italy until now.
Gaddafi, who as current chairman of the Africa Union will attend a G8 summit in Italy next month with U.S. President Barack Obama, also criticized the U.S-led war in Iraq during a speech earlier on Thursday to the Italian senate.
"Iraq was a fortress against terrorism, with Saddam Hussein al Qaeda could not get in, but now thanks to the United States it is an open arena and this benefits al Qaeda," he said. Continued...
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