Italy says in coalition on Libya "without reserve"

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:39 AM
Italy says in coalition on Libya "without reserve"

ROME (Reuters) - Italy threw its full support behind plans for military action against Libya Friday, offering its airbases and declaring it would join the coalition with France, Britain and the United States "without reserve."

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who as recently as Wednesday had ruled out military action, said Rome fully supported the Security Council resolution authorizing airstrikes and said Italy would play its full part in operations.

"The Italian decision is not just full support for the resolution but also the necessity of participating actively," he told a Senate committee hearing.

Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, was one of Muammar Gaddafi's best friends in Europe prior to the turmoil and was the biggest importer of Libyan oil.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said seven bases in Italy -- at Amendola, Gioia del Colle, Sigonella, Aviano, Trapani, Decimomannu and Pantelleria -- were available and some allies had already asked to use them.

Five of them are on the southern mainland or Sicily, making them some of the closest available bases to Libya.

He also suggested that Naples, where NATO has its southern European headquarters, could be the center of operations.

"Some friendly nations, in particular Britain, France, the United States but also some Arab countries are already openly working to create this coalition of the willing, which we will join without any reserve," he told a hearing in the Senate.

He said the bases would be offered "without restriction" and said Italy would also be able to provide other assets.

"We certainly have a strong capacity to neutralize radars of any potential adversaries," he said. "We can intervene in any manner, apart from, of course, any land intervention."

(Reporting by Roberto Landucci; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Philippa Fletcher)