Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, addressing Italians in a historic Rome square, embarrassed his hosts on Thursday by saying he would abolish political parties and give Italians direct power if it were up to him.
“There would be no right, left or center. The party system is the abortion of democracy,” Qaddafi said in a sunset address in the famous Campidoglio square atop Capitoline hill.
“I would abolish political parties so as to give power to the people,” said Qaddafi, as members of the crowd held up banners welcoming him.
His host, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno — who had praised the Libyan leader an hour earlier — told reporters Qaddafi’s discourse on political parties was “unacceptable” and that “we don’t accept lessons on democracy from anyone.”
Qaddafi also praised Italy for condemning fascism after the colonial period. Alemanno, standing beside him, was once the youth leader of a neo-fascist party.
Earlier in the day Qaddafi faced protests by students over his human rights record and over a bilateral agreement for Italy to send back boatloads of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
The students tried to stop him giving a lecture at a Rome university, scuffling with police.
He told the students terrorism was “the residue of colonialism”.
“Terrorism is to be condemned and most victims [of terrorism] are innocent and unarmed,” Qaddafi said.
But the world community had to look at the root causes of terrorism, such as injustice, he added.
Libya, once a pariah accused of sponsoring terrorism, has seen a thaw in its relations with the West since Qaddafi promised to give up the quest for weapons of mass destruction. International sanctions were lifted in 2003.
Italy is at the forefront of the diplomatic thaw.
But Qaddafi retains a defiant tone, arriving on Wednesday in Rome with a picture pinned to his uniform of Omar al-Mukhtar, a resistance hero hanged by the Italians in 1931.
Qaddafi criticized the US-led war in Iraq during a speech earlier on Thursday to the Italian senate.
Qaddafi also complained that the world had not rewarded Libya for giving up its ambition of owning weapons of mass destruction.
“We cannot accept living in the shadow of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons, which is why we decided to change route,” he told the senators.
“We had hoped Libya would be an example to other countries,” Qaddafi said. “But we have not been rewarded by the world.”
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