PARIS Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi wrote to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in August begging him to halt a NATO-led intervention that was helping a rebel uprising drive him from power, French weekly Paris Match reported.
If authentic, the missive reveals Gaddafi's desperation as, days after going on the run, he reached out to a man who had been a close friend and his most solid ally in Europe until Italy joined the West's campaign to back Libyan rebels.
The magazine's website showed a copy of the letter, dated Aug. 5 and in printed Arabic, with handwritten lines scrawled on it, purportedly by Gaddafi and marked to the attention of his aide Abdallah Mansour. It read: "Send on this message as coming from me, by means of this document, after correction."
The words "new friends" at the bottom were then crossed out and "friends and allies" written above it in the same hand.
Gaddafi was buried on Tuesday in a secret location in the Sahara desert, after being shot last week.
In the missive, Gaddafi reproached Berlusconi, with whom he had developed a warm and jovial friendship over several years, for not intervening to help him and reminds him of the pact of friendship between the two countries.
"I have been surprised by the attitude of a friend with whom I have sealed a treaty of friendship that benefits both our nations," the letter read. "I would have hoped that at least you would have been concerned at the facts and would have attempted a mediation before adding your support to this war."
Berlusconi said in a speech to supporters in September that had felt "very bad" about switching sides in April and joining the NATO campaign to oust his old friend from power. He said he had even considered resigning over the issue.
It is not clear whether the letter ever reached Berlusconi, who appealed to Gaddafi on August 22 to end his resistance to avoid further bloodshed in Libya. There was no immediate comment available from Berlusconi's office on Friday.
Paris Match magazine said the letter had been delivered to Berlusconi's office by an Italian couple that had become friends of Gaddafi as they run an agency that provided personnel for conferences Gaddafi held on his trips to Rome.
The letter went on to say that it was not too late for Italy to change direction and protect Gaddafi, and that he and his supporters were ready to turn the page on relations with Italy.
"I do not blame you for things you are not responsible for because I am well aware that you were not in favour of this disastrous action which honours neither you nor the Italian people," the letter read.
(Reporting By Catherine Bremer)