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Students protest at Gaddafi visit

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Muammar Gaddafi addressed students at Rome university as protests broke out

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been heckled by students at Rome University, where he was taking part in a debate.

Italian students jeered, let off smoke bombs and hurled paint, in protest at his human rights record and a deal with Italy to return African migrants.

A smaller group of about 50 Kurds applauded his visit.

Earlier Col Gaddafi denounced the US in a speech to Italian senators, saying the 1986 bombing of Tripoli was no better than attacks by al-Qaeda.

Col Gaddafi is on his first visit to Italy, Libya's former colonial power and now biggest trading partner, since he took power in a coup 40 years ago.

Relations between the two countries have been difficult but in recent years they have flourished and even turned to friendship.

Provocative sally

During their protest, students shouted slogans against the rector of the university for allowing Col Gaddafi to speak there.

Berlusconi and Gaddafi at Rome's Ciampino airport, June 10
Mr Berlusconi said relations with Libya had entered a new era

They have been angered in particular by a bilateral agreement signed between Rome and Tripoli to intercept and forcibly repatriate immigrants arriving in Italy from Africa.

Human rights organisations have condemned the agreement as a means for Italy to evade its obligations to migrants and asylum seekers.

Earlier Col Gaddafi addressed senators, although he was prevented by left-wing senators from speaking in the main Senate chamber.

In front of the speaker, he lashed out at the US, urging the world to understand the reasons which motivate terrorists.

In what he admitted was a provocative sally, he asked what was the difference between al-Qaeda's attacks and the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986, in which one of his own children was killed.

"If [al-Qaeda leader Osama] Bin Laden has no state and is an outlaw, America is a state with international rules," he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

He added that the US was responsible for letting al-Qaeda into Iraq, which under Saddam Hussein was a "fortress against terrorism".

Libya's decision to give up ambitions to have weapons of mass destruction had not been appreciated, he added.

"We had hoped Libya would be an example to other countries," he said. "But we have not been rewarded by the world."

Col Gaddafi and his 200-member entourage were given a red-carpet welcome on Wednesday by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Security is tight for the three-day visit, in which Col Gaddafi is expected to meet visitors in a Bedouin-style tent.

He is also due to address a group of 700 Italian women from the fields of business, politics and culture.



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