Col Muammar Gaddafi has warned that Europe runs the risk of turning “black” unless the EU pays Libya at least €5 billion (£4.1 billion) a year to block the arrival of illegal immigrants from Africa.
His remarks, made during a controversial three day visit to Italy, were condemned as “unacceptable blackmail” by Italian MPs, who likened the demand to the protection money that mafia gangs demand from businesses.
Speaking at a ceremony in Rome while standing next to Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, Col Gaddafi, 67, said that unless his request for money was met, Europe would otherwise become “another Africa” as a result of the “advance of millions of immigrants”.
“Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European and even black as there are millions who want to come in,” he said.
“We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions”.
Tens of thousands of desperate African refugees and economic migrants have reached Italian soil by boat from the North African coast, although the influx has been stemmed by the Libyan navy in the last year under an accord with the Berlusconi government.
An MP from the opposition Italy of Values party, Silvana Mura, accused the Libyan leader of holding Europe to ransom, demanding mafia-style protection money in return for a promise to safeguard the continent from unchecked immigration.
Another opposition MP, Luigi de Magistris, accused the Libyan regime of keeping tens of thousands of African migrants in “concentration camps” in the desert.