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Berlusconi set to meet Gaddafi

Gadhafi's Libya is aiming to come in from the international cold
Gadhafi's Libya is aiming to come in from the international cold

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SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrived in Libya on Tuesday on the first visit by a Western leader since Libya announced in December it was halting plans to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Berlusconi flew from Rome to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, where he was greeted by Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem, local officials said.

Government officials and diplomats said the two leaders would discuss joint efforts to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Libyan shores across the Mediterranean.

Tripoli's demands that Rome compensate it for damages from land mines left behind by occupying forces and the death of Libyans during deportation to Italy by their 1911-1943 colonial rulers would also be discussed.

They also expected Gaddafi to ask Berlusconi, a staunch ally of U.S. President George W. Bush who played a behind-the-scenes role in persuading the Libyan leader to give up nuclear weapons, to intercede with Washington in order to speed up the process of normalization with the United States.

As part of moves to restore normal relations with the West, Libya's foreign minister will also meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday. He is the first Libyan foreign minister to visit Britain since Gaddafi took power in a 1969 coup.

Rome is Libya's main European trading partner and provides Italy with some 25 percent of its oil needs. Berlusconi last visited Libya in 2002.



Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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