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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The theme of the Italian prime minister's visit has been one of reconciliation"
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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 17:46 GMT
Italian premier meets Gaddafi
Mr D'Alema was met at Tripoli airport by a 100 strong guard of honour and a nine-gun salute

Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema has met Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi during the first visit by a Western head of government since sanctions isolated Libya in 1992.

The two men met at Mr Gaddafi's heavily fortified compound, part of an army barracks, on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.

Italy is a bridge between Libya and Europe ... and at the same time we look at Libya as a connection between Europe and Africa and the Arab world
Massimo D'Alema
The sanctions were imposed by the United Nations to force Tripoli to hand over two Libyan nationals suspected of involvement in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland.

They were suspended in April following the surrender of the two Lockerbie suspects to a Scottish court set up in the Netherlands.

Ending the visit late on Thursday, Mr D'Alema said, "It is important to have a dialogue with this country which is on its way to returning fully to the international community."

No details of his closed meeting with Colonel Gaddafi have emerged.

Gestures of reconciliation

Mr D'Alema, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday, returned to the Libyan Government a second century statue of Venus taken during Italy's period of colonial rule in Libya.

Libyan-Italian relations
Italy colonises Libya 1911 to 1943
During Tripoli's isolation after 1992, Italy remains Libya's biggest trading partner
Italian premier is the first western leader to visit Libya after the suspension of sanctions
"By getting the statue back from Berlin, restoring it, and then giving it back to Libya, Italy has attempted to heal a wound," Mr D'Alema said at a ceremony, which Libyan Prime Minister Mohamed Ahmed al-Mangoush also attended.

The Italian premier also laid a wreath at a monument commemorating Libyans who died in a revolt against Italian colonial rule.

A BBC correspondent in Libya, Caroline Hawley, says that Mr D'Alema's visit to Libya is a symbol of changing times and Libya's biggest reward for co-operating with the west over Lockerbie.

It is also a big personal boost to Colonel Gaddafi.

Doing business
Italy - building 600 km underwater gas pipeline and on-shore gas facility
Airbus - 24 aircraft, worth several billion dollars
Britain - looking to rebuild Libya's airports and communications
On the streets of Tripoli where there is relief that several years of international isolation are now drawing to a close. "It makes us very happy," one man told our correspondent, "we want peace with the world."

Libya will truly come in from the cold, as far as Europe is concerned, when Colonel Gaddafi receives a return invitation to visit Rome or some other European capital.

The Libyan leader has often spoken of a desire to meet Pope John Paul II. Earlier this year, the Pontiff was officially invited to visit Libya.

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See also:
07 Jul 99 |  UK Politics
UK restores Libya links
05 Apr 99 |  World
Trial follows years of bargaining
05 Apr 99 |  World
Analysis: Legal firsts for Lockerbie trial
10 Jul 98 |  World
Italy-Libya statement
10 Jul 98 |  Middle East
Libya says Italy is sorry

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