Premier Silvio Berlusconi cast doubt on Libyan reports that Moammar Gadhafi's son and three grandchildren were killed in an April 30 NATO airstrike, saying Wednesday that coalition forces believe the claim to be "propaganda."
Berlusconi told a late-night television talk show that based on intelligence services, Seif al-Arab Gadhafi wasn't in Libya and is rather in another country. He didn't elaborate.
"It doesn't check out with the coalition," Berlusconi told state-run RAI. "It seems like it's propaganda, and that the youngest son of Gadhafi isn't in Libya but lives in another country. Even the case of the three grandchildren seems unfounded. This is the information from our services."
The ANSA news agency reported the comments based on the taping of the show before it aired.
NATO has never confirmed or denied the claim, reported by Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, that Seif, 29, and three of Gadhafi's grandchildren _ all younger than 12 _ were killed in a NATO airstrike on the Libyan leader's residential complex on April 30. Libyan officials said Gadhafi was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.
NATO has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gadhafi or other individuals.
Berlusconi referred to Seif al-Arab as being Gadhafi's youngest son but he is the second youngest, with son Khamis younger by some two years. At the time of the bombing, however, Libyan officials referred to Seif al-Arab as being Gadhafi's youngest.
Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, is participating in the NATO air campaign and has allowed its air bases to be used by coalition forces. Berlusconi had for years called Gadhafi a friend and said he briefly considered resigning after Italy became increasingly drawn into the coalition campaign.