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Libya Crisis Widens Fault Lines in Italy's Populist Government

  • Newspaper says thousands of refugees set to embark for Italy
  • Coalition bickers over response if humanitarian crisis worsens
Smoke plume from an air strike behind tanks and technicals belonging to forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA), south of Tripoli. 

Smoke plume from an air strike behind tanks and technicals belonging to forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA), south of Tripoli. 

Photographer: Mahmud Turkia/AFP via Getty Images

The military conflict in Libya is fueling a new war of words among Italy’s leaders, deepening tension inside the populist government amid risks of an escalating humanitarian crisis.

Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the coalition member League party, is insisting that Italian ports will remain closed to refugees crossing the Mediterranean even if the Libyan conflict worsens. That puts him at odds with Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who want more flexibility for the country’s response.