Page last updated at 08:02 GMT, Sunday, 30 August 2009 09:02 UK

Italy PM to meet Gaddafi in Libya

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

A man walks past an anniversary banner showing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, Libya, 29 August 2009
Libya is holding a string of events to mark Gaddafi's 40 years in power

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is to go to 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 Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to power in 1969.

Italy occupied the North African country between 1911 and World War II.

Mr Berlsuconi's government has agreed to pay $5bn in the next 20 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.

Grave visits

During his one-day stay in Tripoli, Mr Berlusconi was to lay the foundation stone of a new super highway linking Tunisia to Egypt and running along the entire 2,000km (1,240 miles) of Libya's Mediterranean coastline.

A wooden boat carries some 35 would-be immigrants from Lampedusa on 26 June 2008
The countries operate joint sea patrols to combat the flow of illegal migrants

Italian firms are to get valuable contracts for this and other industrial projects.

Italy's crack air-force aerobatic team will be giving two flypasts in Tripoli on Monday and Tuesday.

They will leave green vapour trails in the sky - green being Libya's national colour - instead of the normal red white and green of the Italian flag.

The Libyan government has invited some 300 Italian former settlers and their family members back to Tripoli for the celebrations, during which they will be allowed to visit family graves.

Some left-wing Italian politicians have criticised Mr Berlusconi's decision to seek ever closer relations with Libya.

The two countries already operate joint sea patrols to combat the flow of illegal migrants from Libya towards the EU, and military manoeuvres are to take place soon involving the two countries' armed forces.

Italy is Libya's biggest trading partner and gets more than a third of its energy from Libyan oil and natural gas.

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