ROME (Reuters) - Italy has no intention of joining a U.S.-led coalition that is attacking Islamic State targets in Syria, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Sunday, warning that the air campaign would only add to chaos in the region.
Center-right opponents have urged Renzi to follow in the footsteps of Britain, which last week agreed to take part in missions over Syria, but Renzi told Corriere della Sera newspaper that Italy would remain on the sidelines.
“If being a protagonist means playing at running after other people’s bombardments, then I say ‘no thank you’,” Renzi was quoted as saying.
“Italy’s position is clear and solid. We want to wipe out terrorists, not please the commentators. The one thing we don’t need is to multiply on-the-spot reactions, without a strategic vision,” he said.
He compared the Syria bombardment to NATO’s 2011 air assault against Libya, which helped rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi and then ushered in more than four years of civil strife.
He said Italy had been pushed by the then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take part in the air strikes. “Four years of civil war in Libya show it was not a happy decision. Today there needs to be a different strategy.”
He added: “The one thing we cannot allow ourselves is a repeat of Libya.”
The United States and its allies have been bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to try to drive the group from swaths of territory it controls in both countries.
In the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, the British parliament voted last week to extend its military missions to include raids over Syria.
Renzi said Italy had already committed troops to numerous peacekeeping missions and military operations around the world, including in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Lebanon and Somalia.
The center-right Forza Italia party said Italy’s refusal to heed France’s recent call for help in the fight against Islamic State would only isolate Rome.
“The truth is that Renzi’s Italy counts for very little on the international stage despite the fact that our military is involved in highly delicate operations, because (the prime minister) is incapable of presenting a valid, coherent strategy,” said Forza Italia senator Lucio Malan.
Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Digby Lidstone