Italy offers to join NATO airstrikes on Libya

Arab World Materials 26 April 2011 05:40 (UTC +04:00)

Italy on Monday said it would participate in the NATO-led airstrikes on Libya, the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said late Monday, dpa reported.

The offer came after a telephone call with US President Barack Obama over the situation in Libya and follows an appeal for support by NATO foreign ministers April 14 in Berlin.

The government in Rome said its pilots would carry out "targetted missions against military objects on Libyan territory in order to protect the civilian population."

Italy did not join in the bombing attacks after they began on March 19, but it also had not ruled out participation.

Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said Rome agreed to participate in the NATO missions above all because of the horrific situation in the violently contested city of Misurata. He said Italy would not take part in "random bombardements but rather in targetted missions using precision bombs on preselected targets."

Up to now, Italy has provided military bases and planes for military reconnaissance flights over Libya. In recent days, it also joined Britain and France in the decision to send military experts to help the Libyan opposition forces.

Fighting escalated in the northwestern city of Misurata on Monday, after NATO airstrikes damaged buildings in Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's compound in the capital Tripoli.

Misurata, about 210 km east of Tripoli, is currently only accessible by sea because of the fighting. The flow of food and other supplies to Libya's third largest city has reduced to a trickle. Dozens of injured fighters and civilians and thousands of African migrant workers have been evacuated by sea.