Gaddafi invites back Italians expelled from Libya

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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ended a first visit to former colonial power Italy on Saturday by inviting Italians expelled in the wake of his 1969 revolution to return to the North African country.

Gaddafi’s four-day trip has led to a warming in relations. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologised for the excesses of Italy‘s 1911-1943 colonial rule, opening the door to billions of euros of investment from the oil-rich Arab republic.

On Saturday, Gaddafi received a delegation of Italians expelled from Libya when he swept to power four decades ago and promised the doors of his country were open to them, Reuters reports.

“Gaddafi has acknowledged our problem. He has invited us all to return to Libya,” David Jerbi, one of thousands of Libyan Jews forced to flee the country.

Jerbi said Gaddafi did not explicitly speak about the case of Libya‘s Jewish community which traces its origins to Roman times and has dwindled almost to nothing.

“It’s a very good start on his behalf: he has approached us and is opening possibilities,” Jerbi said outside the park where the Libyan leader pitched his tent during his stay.

Gaddafi angered Rome‘s Jewish community by calling the meeting on a Saturday, the sacred Sabbath day. Many Jewish leaders refused to attend.

Berlusconi said all Italians were now able to return to Libya.

The Libyan leader, who says the wounds of the past have healed, angered many Italians by wearing a photograph of an executed resistance leader on his arrival in Rome, and by criticising the condition of women and democracy in Europe.

Some Italians deported from Libya sounded sceptical about Gaddafi’s offer, which did not appear to deal with reparations.

“He told us that he was forced (to expel us) and that by doing so he saved our lives because the Libyan people wanted to kill us,” said Umberto Robbi, who was expelled in 1970.

“So to save us he also confiscated all our property.”