Anger grows over bombs found in nets

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The Independent Online
THE ITALIAN government will come under increasing pressure this week to demand a halt to the Nato bombing campaign. A proposal to call for a suspension of the air raids is gathering support even among Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema's own party. The debate on Wednesday could create further problems for Mr D'Alema and his fragile five-party coalition.

Revulsion at the Nato "errors", anger at bombs being caught in fishing nets off Venice, and a perception that Washington is over-riding European sensibilities are all fuelling anti-American sentiment in a country that is crucial to the allies. Italian military bases are used daily for air raids over Serbia and Kosovo.

Thousands of pacifists, politicians, left-wing groups, unions, Catholics and voluntary organisations took part in a peace march yesterday from Perugia to Assisi calling for an immediate cease-fire.

From the start of the conflict Mr D'Alema has had to walk a tightrope between loyalty to Nato and internal political pressures. The Italian Communist Party and the Greens have threatened several times to withdraw their ministers in protest and the ex-Communists, who are not in the government, are also anti-Nato. But now the anti-war front is widening to include the separatist Northern League, the moderate People's Party and some MPs of the main left-wing party, Democratici di Sinistra.

If the motion is passed it will not bind the Prime Minister or immediately affect the air campaign. But it will weaken Mr D'Alema, and if the war is prolonged there could be questions about the use of Italian bases.

Mr d'Alema told the newspaper l'Unita yesterday that "an urgent gesture of peace" was needed in Kosovo, although he added that there was a big difference between "a cease-fire at any cost and the tenacious quest for a just and lasting peace". In a separate interview the Prime Minister said that if Russia and China approved a UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of Serb troops and the safe return of refugees the Nato bombing could be halted even before these conditions were met.

Anti-American sentiment has been exacerbated by the discovery of dozens of Nato cluster bombs, jettisoned by pilots, hauled up in the nets of fishermen off Venice. Two weeks ago, three men were injured when a bomb exploded in their nets and for the last four nights trawlers have stayed in port in protest. Rome has asked Nato for clarification.