Italy seeks OK to send troops to Libya

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sat Jul 5 13:17:11 MDT 2003

Italy to Send Soldiers to Libya

.c The Associated Press

ROME (AP) - Italy said Thursday it was near agreement with Libya to
allow Italian soldiers to patrol the North African country's ports in
an effort to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants.

In a speech to parliament a few days before Italy takes over the
European Union rotating presidency, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said the
negotiations with Tripoli are in a ``very advanced'' stage. He did not
say when the accord would be signed.

Berlusconi also played down divisions within his conservative
coalition over immigration policy, insisting his government will
remain in place and work hard through the six months at the helm of
the EU.

The debate over illegal immigration has dominated Italian politics for
weeks, with the anti-immigrant Northern League threatening to pull out
of the government if it doesn't do more to stem an influx that has
seen hundreds arriving nearly daily by boat from North Africa.

``We are about to sign an agreement with Libya that will allow our men
to patrol Libyan ports and our ships to sail in Libyan territorial
waters to hinder immigration that comes from that country,''
Berlusconi said.

Italy negotiated a similar agreement with Albania a few years ago,
after a massive influx of Albanian migrants. Rome sent helicopters and
police vessels across the Adriatic to patrol Albanian ports.

In recent days, Italy has stepped up its pressure on Libya to do more
to crack down on illegal immigration.

In return, Rome has told Tripoli that it would keep pressing the EU to
relax its arms embargo. Italy argues that illegal immigration to
Europe can't be properly curbed without equipment that is currently

The embargo was imposed for Libya's role in the 1988 Pan Am bombing
over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.

In his speech, Berlusconi insisted his government would be ``stable
and proactive'' during the EU presidency, despite recent squabbling
over immigration and other issues.

``I am certain of the loyal cooperation of all my ministers,'' he

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