Print options

March 17, 2011

Italy Offers its Air Bases for No-Fly Zone Over Libya

by Sabina Castelfranco

Italy says it will allow its military bases to be used for the U.N.-backed military intervention to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Italy's president says Rome cannot remain indifferent to developments in Libya.  

Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said Friday there will be no limits on the use of Italian bases to protect the humanitarian situation, as called for in the United Nations Security Council resolution. He was addressing a special session of parliament’s defense and foreign affairs committees.

The use of Italy's air bases is seen as crucial for any action because of its strategic location across the Mediterranean from Libya. Among the facilities are Aviano air base in northeastern Italy; Sigonella near Catania, Sicily; Trapani in western Sicily; and Pantelleria, a tiny island halfway between Tunisia and Sicily.

The defense minister also said Italy has a strong ability to take out Libyan radars, if need be.

The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Earlier, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Italy cannot remain indifferent to developments in Libya. He said Italy cannot stand by watching the systematic repression of fundamental freedom and human rights in any country.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, flanking La Russa, said Italy’s “active participation includes base use" but would not be limited to that.  Italy has heavy economic and energy ties in Libya. He said Italy wants to have a solid presence in Libya, both in the present and in the future.  

In preparation for enforcing the no-fly zone through military means, Italy has closed its Embassy in Tripoli. All Italian embassy and consular staff have left Libya, and Frattini said Turkey would represent Italian interests there.