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Italy Ready to Help US Against Terrorism - 2001-09-18

Italy says it will provide the United States with all necessary support to combat terrorism, including troops, if requested. Italy's defense minister made clear that his government would stand by the United States in any military response. The Italian government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has declared unequivocally that it will give total support to the United States in any action against terrorism following last week's attacks in New York and Washington.

"Italy will show once again that it is a reliable NATO partner and ally of the United States," said Defense Secretary Antonio Martino during a visit to Macedonia.

Defense Minister Martino said it is difficult to hypothesize what kind of support will be required by the United States but left no doubt that Italy would join a U.S.-led military response, if requested. "We stand solidly behind our American allies," he said, and "we will do anything we can to participate in a response to this unacceptable, terrible act of terrorism." Italian public opinion is reflecting growing concern about the outbreak of a wider conflict following any U.S. attack.

In a recent survey, 62 percent of those interviewed said they believe there would be a strong military action against terrorism with the participation of European countries, including Italy. Only 25 percent declared that they thought diplomacy would prevail. Despite fears that a new world conflict might break out, most Italians believe there should be a strong response to the acts of terrorism in the United States.

Italy lived through dark years of terrorism during the early 1980s and has much experience in combating such actions. It has a well-trained special anti-terrorism squad that monitors and investigates the movement of any suspicious individuals. "Italy came out victorious in its war against terrorism. It managed to break the Red Brigades and cause problems to the Mafia," said former U.S. CIA director James Woolsey, in an interview published Tuesday in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. He added that the United States has a lot to learn from Italy in the fight against terrorism.