ROME – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi urged the world Thursday to understand what motivates terrorists, and likened the 1986 U.S. strikes on Libya to Osama bin Laden's terror attacks.
Gadhafi, who was long accused of sponsoring terrorism, struck a provocative tone as he addressed Italian lawmakers on the second day of a trip to Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler. He said there should be no interference from the West over the governments chosen by other countries.
The speech got tepid applause and was likely to add to the controversy that has surrounded this rare visit by Libya's strongman to a Western democracy.
"It is not very intelligent to chase terrorists down the Afghan mountains or central Asia," Gadhafi said in the hour-long speech. "That's impossible. We must look at their reasons."
Gadhafi said he condemned terrorism, al-Qaida and bin Laden. But he said he was being intentionally provocative "to try and understand acts of terrorism."
He said that terrorists, in explaining their motives, might argue they are defending themselves from humiliations suffered at the hands of the West and from the depletion of their riches. He called for dialogue with terrorists, saying, "One must talk to the devil, if it brings about a solution."
Sarcastically, he asked, "What's the difference between the U.S. airstrikes on our homes and bin Laden's actions?" If anything, he said, bin Laden is an outlaw, while the United States is a country that should abide by international law.
Former President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986 after an attack on a disco in Germany killed three people, including two U.S. servicemen. The Libyans say the retaliatory attacks killed 41 people, including Gadhafi's adopted daughter, and injured 226 others.
Gadhafi had long been ostracized by the West for sponsoring terrorism, but in recent years sought to emerge from his pariah status by abandoning weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism in 2003.