Italy pushes for NATO control of Libya mission

ROME Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:14pm EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - Italy urged its allies to bring military operations in Libya under NATO command on Monday, warning that otherwise it may resume separate national control of airbases it has authorized for use in the mission.

"It's important that the command passes to NATO with a different coordination structure than what we have now," Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a political rally in Turin.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said if an agreement was not reached for NATO control of the U.N.- mandated no-fly zone over Libya, Italy would resume its own separate command structure.

"Italy will consider the idea of introducing its own separate national command to handle the control of all those military operations that require the use of the seven bases our country has put at the mission's disposal," the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier Frattini told reporters in Brussels that "we would have to look for an operational solution which would ensure that someone else's action did not rebound on us."

Several NATO states, led by France, Britain and the United States, have taken part in operations in Libya, but the role of NATO as an organization has been limited to expanded air surveillance.

Berlusconi stressed that the mission was limited to enforcing a no-fly zone and protecting civilians.

Italian planes flying over Libya were not shooting and would not shoot, he said.

(Reporting by Franceso Guarascio, Gianni Montani and Catherine Hornby)

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