Related topics

Italy Vote Backs NATO Strikes

March 26, 1999

ROME (AP) _ Walking a tightrope between Western partners and critics at home, Italy’s premier won parliamentary support Friday to keep participating in attacks on Yugoslavia while pressing for new peace talks.

A day after seeming to waver on the NATO airstrikes, Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema went to the Chamber of Deputies with a motion that commits his government to lobbying abroad for a return to negotiations on Kosovo and suspending the airstrikes.

But before the vote approving the motion, D’Alema made clear that Italy would keep playing a vital role in the NATO mission. The alliance has 11 bases in Italy, which are central to the campaign.

D’Alema said his call for renewed talks between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo ``has nothing to do with a break with our responsibilities or an attitude of something less than solidarity toward our allies.″

But, he insisted: ``The negotiating table must remain open, even at such a dramatic moment.″

D’Alema’s emphasis on negotiations was aimed at placating Communists and others in his left-leaning coalition who see the strikes as risking a wider conflict in the Balkans.

Communist allies brought down the previous government last year.

The government motion was approved in late evening in the Senate, where D’Alema has a comfortable margin.

D’Alema stunned NATO partners Thursday by saying it was time for force to give way to diplomacy. He told Parliament that Italy would exploit the first break in NATO strikes to push Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to renew talks.

The Italian left is always wary of military action. So is the Vatican, which has influence over Catholic politicians in D’Alema’s coalition. But President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro stressed Friday that Italy would respect its NATO obligations.

Update hourly