President Barack Obama shook hands with Libyan President Muammar al-Qaddafi on Thursday, as the two met up shortly before the G-8 summit dinner hosted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
According to Fox News:
Obama's diplomatic gesture was his latest effort to reach out to controversial world leaders in an attempt to improve the United States' standing around the world, which he says was damaged by former President Bush's unilateral diplomacy.
Libya was once the subject of strict international sanctions when the nation was believed to sponsor terrorism. Those sanctions were lifted in 2003 when Qaddafi vowed to end his ambition of acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
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Nevertheless, Qaddafi remains a controversial figure. Once labeled the “mad dog of the Middle East” by President Ronald Reagan, Qaddafi has remained highly outspoken in his criticism of U.S. policy.
During a recent speech to the Italian senate, the Libyan president criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq, saying "Iraq was a fortress against terrorism. With Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda could not get in, but now thanks to the United States it is an open arena and this benefits Al Qaeda."
He went on to say, "What difference is there between the American attack on our homes in 1986 and bin Laden's terrorist actions. If bin Laden has no state and is an outlaw, America is a state with international rules."
This isn't the first time President Obama has extended his hand to a controversial world leader. Back in April, he made headlines after shaking hands with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who then presented Obama with a book critical of U.S. foreign policy.
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Denis McDonough, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told Bloomberg News that Obama will not hesitate to greet any of the leaders attending the G-8 summit, and he may even bring up issues that are important to the U.S.
Image by the Associated Press.