May 13, 2009 / 3:46 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Libya's Gaddafi to visit Italy in June ahead of G8

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ROME, May 13 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will pay his first official visit to Italy next month and return for the G8 summit in July, the Italian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Libya’s ambassador to Italy Hafed Gaddur said the visit from June 10 to 12 would mainly address bilateral issues.

The two countries signed an accord last August under which Rome will provide billions of dollars in investments and compensation for its colonial rule of the North African country from 1911 to 1943, ending a long-running dispute.

They have also signed an agreement meant to stop illegal immigrants from reaching Italy, and last week Rome began sending migrants intercepted at sea directly back to Libya before they reach its shores, drawing criticism from the United Nations.

Libyan investment funds have bought stakes in major Italian companies in recent months and have said they are considering further investments.

Gaddafi will return to Italy in July to attend, as chairman of the African Union, part of a G8 summit due to include African leaders. He could then meet U.S. President Barack Obama, in what would be his first meeting with a U.S. president.

Italy, which this year chairs the Group of Eight, has been at the forefront of the thaw in the West’s ties with Tripoli since Libya announced in 2003 that it would stop pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Gaddafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup, has met some European leaders since the thaw began, including Britain’s Tony Blair in 2007, and has visited some European countries, though not Italy so far. (Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Deepa Babington; editing by Andrew Roche)

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