Italians 'used blackmail' over Somalia

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The Independent Online
NEW YORK - In a startling new twist in the row between the UN and Italy over the peace-keeping operation in Somalia, diplomatic sources said yesterday that Italy had 'blackmailed' the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, into letting Italian troops into Somalia by threatening to pull its forces out of Mozambique if he did not, writes Peter Pringle.

The dispute between Rome and the UN heated up yesterday when Italy flatly refused to allow the United Nations to remove the commander of the Italian force in Somalia, General Bruno Loi.

The Secretary-General has demanded that General Loi be sent back to Rome for refusing to carry out orders in southern Mogadishu. The Italian contingent of 2,400 will be deployed elsewhere in Somalia, UN officials say.

Normally, the UN avoids sending peace-keeping troops to a country with which they have old ties, but Mr Boutros-Ghali made an exception in the case of Somalia, a former Italian colony, because the Italians threatened to pull their 1,058 troops out of Mozambique, where the UN has a 5,000-strong force. The Italians were never invited to join the 23-nation force in Somalia, they simply 'blackmailed' Mr Boutros-Ghali, the sources said.

Part of the current territory of Somalia was colonised by Italy in 1889, became a UN Trust Territory administered by Italy in 1950 and gained independence in 1960.

The Italian Defence Minister, Fabio Fabbri, last night insisted that the choice of the commander of the Italian contingent is 'a matter of sovereignty of the Italian government. On this there can be no transaction . . . The general did not act off his own bat, but on his original instructions from Rome,' Mr Fabbri said.

Italians thwarted, page 10

Leading article, letters, page 19