Leave Libya or we will bring you down, allies tell Berlusconi
Northern League threatens to sink coalition as PM endures another day in court
(The Independent) -- by Michael Day in Milan --
Italy's belated decision to join the military campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has brought fresh political woes for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with opposition to the bombing threatening to sink his fragile coalition.
Senior figures in the Northern League want an end to Italian air strikes only a week after they began following a personal plea by US President Barack Obama to Mr Berlusconi. Parliament will vote on the Northern League motion to this effect later today.
The xenophobic coalition partner says the bombing will provoke a wave of illegal immigration from Libya to Italy's southern coast, and is demanding Mr Berlusconi set a date to end the raids. Umberto Bossi, the pugnacious Northern League leader, had threatened to bring down the government if parliament was not allowed to vote on the issue. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, another Northern League figure, predicted the government would fall if the bombing was not stopped.
Mr Maroni also warned that the killing at the weekend of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Arab, would "have enraged the Libyan dictator even more", and repeated claims that Gaddafi would as revenge, send a wave of up to 50,000 immigrants to Italy's shores. Italy has already seen nearly 30,000 migrants arrive from Tunisia this year.
Mr Maroni has criticised a parliament briefing given by the Defence Minister, Ingazio La Russa, in which he explained that Italian aircraft would take part in "targeted strikes" to prevent Gaddafi's forces from attacking civilians. "Bombs by definition are not 'smart'... a bomb destroys. What is smart is resolving a conflict without force and through diplomatic means," Mr Maroni said.
After 18 months of sleaze and corruption allegations against him, Mr Berlusconi has seen his parliamentary majority shrink away. Without Northern League support, he would have no majority...MORE...LINK