Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Gaddafi preaches to Rome beauties

By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Colonel Gaddafi
Party host Colonel Gaddafi extolled the virtues of Islam

A group of party girls got more than they bargained for when they were recruited to attend a posh do in Rome on Sunday night.

Instead of canapés and cocktails, the 200 young women found themselves being encouraged to become Muslims.

It turned out the host was Libya's leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, in town for the UN food summit.

He spoke of the wonders of Islam and assured his guests it was not anti-women, as some critics argue.

The selection process had been rigorous; the identity of the host, a mystery.

The girls had to be beautiful, between 18 and 35 - and at least 1.70m tall.

The dress code was strict: plunging necklines and short miniskirts were most definitely out.

Two-hundred women passed muster and were bussed to a plush residential corner of the Italian capital.

Security scanned and shown into an imposing reception room, they were then left waiting, as several complained, without so much as a glass of water.

An hour later, their host's identity was finally revealed.

Col Gaddafi proceeded to preach the benefits of Islam, taking particular pains to assure his guests that it was not misogynistic, and encouraging them to convert.

Two hours later, the women left, looking a touch bemused, 50 euros ($75; £45) better off and clutching a copy of the Koran.

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