The Italian air force's acrobatic jets whizzed over Tripoli trailing their country's colors on Tuesday despite Libya's initial insistence that they emit only green smoke, the official color of Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Italian government officials had said the renowned Frecce Tricolori, or Tri-colored Arrows, would only take part in the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Gadhafi's coup in Libya if they could emit smoke in the red-white-and-green colors of their national flag.
"I agreed last night with the defense minister that the Frecce Tricolori will fly with the three-colored trail" of smoke, the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Premier Silvio Berlusconi as telling reporters in Gdansk, Poland, where he was attending ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.
Italy's center-left opposition had criticized the government for sending the team to Libya, lamenting that Rome would be celebrating a dictator.
Libya's request for green — the color Gadhafi associates with his regime — reopened the debate, but later Tuesday Italian TV showed the team flying over Tripoli with its traditional smoke trails.
Berlusconi met with Gadhafi in Libya on Sunday to mark another anniversary: one year earlier, Italy — Libya's former colonial ruler — forged a friendship treaty with Tripoli.
Rome has maintained generally good relations with Gadhafi, even during the years the Libyan ruler was accused in the West of sponsoring international terrorism. Libya is a major supplier of gas and oil to Italian markets.