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US Accepts Italy's Offer of Military Support - 2001-11-05

The United States has accepted Italy's offer of military support in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. But before the troops can be sent anywhere, Italy's parliament has to give its approval.

Italy's formal offer of military support to the United States was originally made 10 days ago when the defense ministry said it could make available an armored regiment, attack helicopters, fighter jets and four warships.

Rome also offered specialists in nuclear, chemical and bacteriological warfare. Defense minister Antonio Martino said some 1,000 Italian servicemen could be involved in the operation.

Italy has always made clear it was ready to back the United States in its anti-terror drive and participate in military operations. Government officials have declared that Italy would not shy away from its duties as an ally.

The Italian offer was formally accepted by the United States and the defense ministry issued a statement Sunday saying Italian forces were an integral part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

No date has yet been announced by Rome for the deployment, as parliamentary approval will be required ahead of any mission. A debate and vote are expected in the Italian parliament this week.

The government holds a comfortable majority in both houses and should have no trouble obtaining parliamentary approval.

Italian military sources say that air force planes will be ready in a few days while it will take some weeks to equip ships and longer to prepare ground troops. Italian soldiers could be used in Afghanistan or other areas, but are not likely to be deployed for some time.