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Berlusconi Says Ally’s Bid to Limit Libya Role Not an Issue

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said a key ally’s attempt to limit Italy’s role in the military campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi doesn’t threaten the unity of his government.

Parliament tomorrow will begin debate on a motion by the Northern League, Berlusconi’s main coalition partner, to set an end date for Italy’s expanded role in the bombing campaign. The motion was prompted by Berlusconi’s decision last week to widen Italy’s participation from providing support to taking part in air strikes to protect civilians from the Libyan military.

“I don’t think there will be difficulties for the government,” Berlusconi told journalists in Milan today. “The League, an essential member of the coalition, has presented a motion and has taken a position that is reasonable. We can vote on the whole thing or modify part of it, but the overall sense of the motion is something that is acceptable.”

The government’s majority in parliament “is not in doubt,” Berlusconi said. Northern League leader Umberto Bossi threatened yesterday to bring down the government if there was no vote on the motion.

The Northern League, a regional anti-immigration party, has opposed Italy’s participation in the campaign against Qaddafi and said the decision to take part in military actions will lead Qaddafi to encourage a flood of refugees to Italy. In a speech on April 30, Qaddafi threatened to bring the war to Italian soil because of the decision and the Italian embassy in Tripoli was attacked yesterday.

Berlusconi and Bossi will meet today to discuss the motion, Leonardo Boriani, head of the League’s official newspaper, said in an interview with Radio24.

Parliament is likely to vote on the motion on May 4, Italian media including RAI television reported. The government will also face motions on Libya presented by opposition parties.

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