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The presence of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe at a United Nations food summit in Rome is "obscene", Australia's foreign minister has said.
"This is the person who has presided over the starvation of his people," said Stephen Smith.
State television said Mr Mugabe was accompanied by his wife and senior government officials on the trip.
Mr Mugabe and his ministers are usually subject to a European Union travel ban - but he is able to attend UN forums.
It is Mr Mugabe's first visit to Europe since the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won a majority in parliamentary elections in March.
He faces a presidential run-off on 27 June against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr Mugabe's supporters have been accused of attacking MDC activists, leaving at least 50 dead.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) summit starts on Tuesday and reports say Mr Mugabe is expected to stay in Italy until Friday.
The EU, US and UK are all strongly critical of Mr Mugabe's human rights record, as well as his management of the economy.
"This is the person who has used food aid in a politically motivated way," said Mr Smith, who is due to attend the summit.
"So Robert Mugabe turning up to a conference dealing with food security or food issues is, in my view, frankly obscene."
A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Mr Mugabe's presence was "unfortunate... given what he has done in relation to contributing to difficulties on food supply in Zimbabwe".
Zimbabwe used to be a net food exporter but now suffers from chronic food shortages.
Inflation is running at an annual rate of 165,000% and just one in five adults has a regular job.
Last year Mr Brown boycotted an EU-Africa summit because Mr Mugabe had been invited to attend.
Mr Mugabe routinely dismisses criticism of him as evidence of Western racism.
He will be given the opportunity to address the summit.
He caused a stir at a similar summit in Rome in 2005 when he denounced the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush.
He described them as "unholy men" at the meeting in Rome - to the applause of some delegates.
He also said the West was "foisting food" on the Zimbabwean people.
In Zimbabwe, at least 70 people have been arrested following attacks on ruling party supporters, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.
The MDC blames the ruling Zanu-PF for the violence but this is denied by allies of Mr Mugabe.
A senior Zimbabwean opposition politician, Arthur Mutambara, was arrested on Saturday over a written attack on Mr Mugabe.
Mr Mutambara recently pledged to work with Mr Tsvangirai to defeat President Mugabe in the run-off elections.