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Italian Parliament Calls for Time Limit on Libyan Mission

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TEHRAN, May 4 (ICANA) – The Italian parliament on Wednesday narrowly approved a motion in favor of the country's participation in NATO's military mission in Libya, but called on the government to set a specific deadline for hostilities to end.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011 10:14:06 PM
Italian Parliament Calls for Time Limit on Libyan Mission

In a compromise which saw the motion passed, the government was told to work with foreign allies to determine the time limit for the operation.

But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said hostilities would stop only when the mission's objectives had been fulfilled - ending attacks on civilians, securing the withdrawal of military forces, and guaranteeing unhindered access to humanitarian aid.

'I am not able to fix a date when the three objectives will be fulfilled,' he told a news conference in Brussels, dpa reported.

The lower house Chamber of Deputies approved the motion with 309 votes and 294 against.

The motion was the fruit of a compromise between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party and the government's junior partner, the Northern League.

Last week the anti-immigration Northern League had threatened to vote against Italy's participation in the NATO mission, warning that foreign military intervention in the current uprising against Moamer Gaddafi's regime would lead to more unrest and unleash a wave of migrants towards Italy's shores.

The Northern League cited the example of some 30,000 Tunisians who have arrived in Italy in the wake of January's revolt against Tunisia's former autocratic regime.

However, the Northern League subsequently toned down its position, agreeing to a joint motion in parliament, with the proviso that it would commit the Italian government, in agreement with its NATO allies, to fix a timeframe by which the mission in Libya should end.

No specific dates were mentioned in the motion, which also commits the government not to raise taxes in order to fund Italy's military involvement abroad.

The motion also rules out the involvement of any Italian ground troops in Libya.

Last week Berlusconi, after a telephone call with US President Barack Obama, announced that Italian planes would take part in NATO airstrikes in Libya.

The Northern League - which had been the driving force behind a 2008 agreement between Italy and Gaddafi's regime for the deportation to Libya of migrants intercepted at sea - criticized the premier for deciding on the airstrikes unilaterally.

Berlusconi, who needs the support of the Northern League to maintain his coalition's slim parliamentary majority, later apologized.

The Northern League, which campaigns on a federalist ticket, has a history of dissenting over Italian military missions abroad. In the past it has made repeated calls for a withdrawal of Italian troops from NATO operations in Afghanistan and from the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

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