Rome may pull out of Mogadishu: Italian press savages American leadership of peace-keeping forces

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The Independent Online
ITALY, shocked and angered by the United States' attacks on Mogadishu, said last night said it would propose to pull its troops out of the city unless the countries involved in peacekeeping there could agree on a single command and a single policy.

The differences of opinion among the multinational contingents in Somalia 'make our presence in Mogadishu difficult' the Foreign Minister, Beniamino Andreatta, said after a cabinet meeting.

The American bombing raids, about which the Italian commander in Somalia, General Bruno Loi, was reportedly not informed until the last minute, have brought a sharp change of mood in the Italian government, the press and the public. While the deaths of three Italian soldiers and injuries to many others in a Somali attack last week stiffened resolve to remain and insist even harder on a role in the UN command, the American attacks and the many deaths caused have convinced many Italians that their presence in Somalia is becoming senseless and has brought the government under strong pressure from some quarters to pull out.

The outburst of Italian anger came at the same time that it emerged in New York that contingents from several other countries have defied the UN command in Mogadishu and taken orders from their own capitals.

Joe Sills, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, last night confirmed that a number of countries' units pose a problem in this regard. 'It is unacceptable to the Secretary-General for any member state to give instructions to its national contingents', he said.

Mr Andreatta insisted that Italy would remain in Somalia, but demanded discussions about the multinational contingent's 'political objectives' in that country. If these objectives 'should contrast with the need for a single command and a single interpretation of UN resolutions we ask that our corps, or the third of it that is deployed in the city, be redeployed to the north of the city'. That is where the remainder of the Italian contingent is stationed. An official statement later also suggested that the large area being patrolled by Italian troops could even be extended as a 'contribution to be peacekeeping spirit' of the UN resolutions.

The Somalia experience has also generated the most independent attitude towards the United States in any Italian government since the Second World War, although Mr Andreatta hastened to stress that the disputes there did not undermine their fundamental alliance. This turned into outright hostility in the daily Il Giorno which commented yesterday that for the US there were two things too many in Somalia, 'the Somalis and the Italians. Without these Somalia would be perfect'. It suggested the Americans were there to get rid of these two inconveniences, while the UN was 'a little dog on the American lead'. The American raid, said La Repubblica, 'is incomprehensible and unjustifiable'. It was like the Wild West, in which bounty-seekers charge into a saloon shooting in all directions in the hope that among the dead was 'the wicked, the super-hunted, the most wanted General Aideed'.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said the attack had compromised the dialogue set up by the Italian command with General Aideed's people. 'The original aim of the mission has been abandoned or momentarily forgotten,' it said. The Northern League and some left-wing parties demanded that Italy pull out of Somalia completely. The League said: 'One can no longer objectively talk about a humanitarian mission to restore hope . . . It has become impossible to justify the daily acts of war.'

MOGADISHU - The International Red Cross reported that checks at hospitals found 54 Somalis killed and 174 wounded in the UN attack, AP reports. That was close to the toll of 73 dead and 200 wounded reported by General Aideed's supporters.

Obituaries, page 24

(Photograph omitted)

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