REPORTING FROM LONDON — One of the first Western leaders to comment on the reports of former Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's death was his one-time friend and ally, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who apparently broke into Latin.
"Sic transit gloria mundi," meaning "Thus passes the glory of the world," Berlusconi said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA, quoting the premier's aides. Berlusconi then added: "Now the war is finished."
Before the rebellion that toppled Kadafi from power, Berlusconi was one of the former dictator's staunchest Western allies, so close that the two men met and were photographed together several times, including one occasion on which Berlusconi kissed Kadafi's hand.
Italy was once a colonial power in Libya, and Italian oil interests in the North African nation remain deep. But as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Italy has participated in the air campaign over Libya, offering its bases to NATO fighter jets.
According to ANSA, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that "the death of Kadafi, if confirmed, would really be a great victory for the Libyan people ... a great step forward that has ended tragically because the dictator refused until the last, to give himself up to international justice."
— Henry Chu
Photo: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on Wednesday. Credit: Roberto Monaldo / Lapresse