UPDATE 1-Libya’s Gaddafi arrives in Italy, business in focus

* Gaddafi meets Berlusconi on Monday

* Economic ties in focus, criticism of bank stake

* Opposition says migrant deal ignores human rights

(Adds details after arrival)

By Ella Ide

ROME, Aug 29 (BestGrowthStock) – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
arrived in Rome on Sunday for a two-day visit that has aroused a
mixture of curiosity and controversy over Tripoli’s growing
influence in the Italian economy.

Media reports have focused on aspects like the tent in which
Gaddafi sleeps on foreign visits as well as the 30 horses he is
bringing to take part in an equestrian show on Monday, when he
will meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Reporters and television cameras gathered at a Libyan
cultural centre in Rome after a hundreds of young women
reportedly recruited by a hostess agency were invited to hear
him talk about converting to Islam.

“He spoke about an attempt at a general conversion to Islam
… Islam is the only religion, that kind of thing,” one told
Italian television reporters after the meeting.

But there has been criticism of Libya’s expanding interest
in the Italian economy, with attention focused on the stake of
some 6.7 percent built up in UniCredit (CRDI.MI: ), one of the
country’s biggest banking groups.

Politicians from the Northern League party, Berlusconi’s
coalition allies who have frequently spoken out against foreign
immigration, have criticised the investment and called on market
regulator ConSob to investigate.

Opposition politicians have also attacked Berlusconi for his
close relationship with Gaddafi and for riding roughshod over
human rights with a deal under which Libya has agreed to take
back illegal immigrants trying to sail to Italy from its ports.

The Libyans’ record as investors has had support from
business leaders including the chairman of Assicurazioni
Generali SpA, Cesare Geronzi and the head of Banca Popolare di
Milano (PMII.MI: ), Massimo Ponzellini.

Sunday’s visit to Italy is Gaddafi’s fourth since a 2008
agreement under which Berlusconi agreed to pay $5 billion in
reparations for damage inflicted during Italy’s colonial rule
over Libya in the early part of the 20th century.

Economic ties between the two countries have developed
strongly, and Italy, now Libya’s biggest trade partner, buys
much of its oil and natural gas from the energy-rich North
African state.

As well as its shareholding in UniCredit, Libya owns a stake
in oil company Eni (ENI.MI: ) and has expressed interest in many
more, including power company Enel (ENEI.MI: ).

The visit, to celebrate the second anniversary of the 2008
Italian-Libyan friendship agreement, has been the subject of
much uncertainty. Gaddafi’s arrival date was changed twice and
he arrived in Rome more than an hour later than expected.
(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Jon Hemming)

UPDATE 1-Libya’s Gaddafi arrives in Italy, business in focus