Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has urged the European Union to pay Libya "at least €5bn (£4.1bn) a year" for Tripoli to stop the waves of clandestine African migrants who sail from the country's Mediterranean shores in smugglers' boats toward Western Europe.
Otherwise, Colonel Gaddafi warned during a speech in Italy, Europe "could turn into Africa" with millions of immigrants.
The Italian government's practice of returning those found at sea to Libya without screening them first for asylum has been criticised by human rights groups and Catholic Church officials. As part of a treaty with Italy, Libya agreed to crack down on the thousands of African migrants who set off from Libyan shores for its former colonial master. Premier Silvio Berlusconi's key partner in his conservative coalition is the anti-immigrant Northern League party.
Mr Berlusconi's tribute to Colonel Gaddafi at a gala evening for his "friend" on Monday saw the two of them review some 130 Carabinieri horsemen saluting the Libyan as he arrived at the barracks and a shout from the mounted regiment's leader of "honours to the leader of the revolution, Muammar Gaddafi".
Mr Berlusconi thanked his counterpart for strengthened ties between Tripoli and Rome and dismissed as being behind the times those criticising the Libyan leader for trying to convert Italians to Islam during the visit. The dinner in Colonel Gaddafi's honour was reported to have stretched into the early hours of yesterday morning.
With Colonel Gaddafi dressed in white robes at his side, Mr Berlusconi hailed the North African leader for signing a friendship treaty exactly two years ago that the Italian called a "model of diplomacy in the era of globalisation".
But left-leaning opposition lawmakers and pro-Vatican politicians in this predominantly Catholic county criticised the government's failure to protest at Colonel Gaddafi's behaviour.Reuse content