Italy may send military training team to Libya


Italy will consider sending 10 military trainers as part of increased Western efforts to help badly pressured rebel forces in Libya, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa says. As the campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi risks becoming stalled, France and Britain have said they will send in military officers to advise the ragtag rebel forces, though they have ruled out sending troops.

“The (Italian) government will evaluate in cabinet sending 10 military trainers to train the Libyan insurgents,” La Russa told foreign reporters in Rome. “The time, place and specialisations of the Italian trainers remain to be defined.” He said he did not believe the United States would send trainers, though he added Washington had not ruled this out.

La Russa said Western forces may need to step up intervention in Libya while remaining within the terms of the U.N. Security Council resolution authorising the use of airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces. Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, has repudiated its former ally Gaddafi and has recognised the Benghazi-based Provisional Transitional National Council as the representative organisation for Libya.

It has joined the NATO-led air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces, providing bases and 8 aircraft, but it has not allowed its forces to open fire and has strongly ruled out sending any ground forces to Libya. La Russa said Gaddafi would only leave power if he were forced. He added that the weapons available to Gaddafi’s forces were superior to the rebels’ arms.