ROME - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi faced angry protests and tough questions on human rights yesterday as he gave a speech at a Rome university during his first visit to Italy.
Earlier yesterday, he courted controversy by calling for dialogue with terrorists and by likening the 1986 U.S. air strikes on Libya to Osama bin Laden's terror attacks.
Hundreds of students protested Gadhafi's speech at La Sapienza University. Some hurled objects, firecrackers, and red paint at riot police, and baton-wielding officers charged the demonstrators. No injuries were reported.
Gadhafi, for decades ostracized by the West, has emerged from his pariah status by abandoning weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism in 2003. The United States restored diplomatic ties with Libya in 2006 and removed Libya from the State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Gadhafi's four-day visit to Italy, which began Wednesday, has highlighted Tripoli's strong political and economic ties to Rome.
Inside the Italian university's auditorium, Gadhafi gave a long speech on world affairs and reminded young people of Italy's colonial rule in Libya.
Students asked questions reflecting rights groups' concerns about a recent deal allowing Italy to send immigrants back to Libya if they are intercepted at sea. Some decried Libya's treatment of migrants.
He sidestepped the questions.
Earlier yesterday, he gave a speech to lawmakers urging the world to understand what motivates terrorists.
Gadhafi said that while he condemned terrorism, al-Qaeda and bin Laden, he hoped to provoke others "to try to understand acts of terrorism."
He then continued: "What's the difference between the U.S. air strikes on our homes and bin Laden's actions?"
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi after an attack on a disco in Germany killed three people, including two U.S. servicemen.