Frattini remains firm on Italy in Libya, but criticizes NATO
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Monday rebuked calls from a junior government partner to pull out of NATO airstrikes in Libya - but said the western military alliance needed to better communicate its actions, DPA reported.
At a rally on Sunday, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi called on Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government to counter a recent string of electoral defeats by lowering taxes, using money earmarked for international military missions.
"We have to continue to protect the population," Frattini said as he arrived in Luxembourg for a meeting with EU counterparts, referring to the stated objective of NATO's mission in Libya.
"There can be no unilateral withdrawals, but neither can the status quo continue forever," he added. The Libyan conflict should end "well before September," which is the maximum timeline set by NATO for military action, Frattini said.
NATO is facing a barrage of criticism after admitting on Sunday that a botched air raid over Tripoli had resulted in the killing of civilians. Frattini joined the chorus.
"NATO's credibility is at stake, you cannot run the risk of killing civilians, this is absolutely not good," he said. But he also urged "the international press" to "shine a light" on the crimes attributed to Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's regime.
"You cannot either have this lack of communication towards public opinion. We are not countering the relentless propaganda of Gaddafi, this is something NATO should reflect upon," the Italian minister insisted.
Frattini also dismissed the Northern League's suggestion that if Italy were to stop bombing Libya, North African immigrants would stop landing on Italy's shores.
"We are on the frontline anyway ... It is not like (Libyan leader Moamer) Gaddafi will graciously return the favour by stopping them and sending them to Spain," he said.