Berlusconi tells Gaddafi Italy did not arm demonstrators

Berlusconi tells Gaddafi Italy did not arm demonstrators

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday telephoned Moamer Gaddafi to reportedly deny a claim made earlier by the Libyan leader that anti-government demonstrators had been armed with rockets supplied by Italy, dpa reported.

According to a statement issued by Berlusconi's office, the call was made following a televised afternoon address by the embattled Gaddafi, in which he said he would not stand down and that protesters would be executed.

The Libyan leader, branding the protesters "terrorists," also accused the US and Italy of supplying them with "rockets."

Berlusconi's office did not specify the contents of the telephone conversation, but the ANSA news agency, citing Italian government sources, said the premier had "flatly denied" any Italian involvement in supplying weapons to the demonstrators.

Berlusconi, who in recent years has sought closer ties between Italy and Libya through a personal friendship with Gaddafi, also appealed for a peaceful solution to the disturbances in which hundreds of demonstrators are believed to have been killed by Libyan security forces.

On Monday, Berlusconi had joined other European Union leaders in condemning the violence against civilians.

In 2008 Berlusconi and Gaddafi signed a controversial Italy-Libya friendship agreement, in which Italy promised 5 billion dollars to compensate the North African country for transgressions during three decades of Italian colonial rule during the first half of the 20th century.

In exchange, Gaddafi pledged to assist Italy's conservative government curb illegal immigration across the Mediterranean, by accepting the immediate deportation to Libya of migrants intercepted in international waters.

Critics, including the United Nations and the Catholic Church, say the deal violates the rights of asylum seekers since the deportations take place without establishing whether the people involved are eligible for refugee status.

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