Left at risk
Prodi's coalition divided over Afghan defence
The centre-left government of Romano Prodi on Friday approved a financing measure for Italys peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan without having the certainty that it will be confirmed by parliament. The decree law, which approved another six months of funding for Italys 1,840 soldiers in Afghanistan, must be given a green light by parliament next month-otherwise it will lose validity.
A small group of senators from parties in the governing coalition have said they will vote against the measure because they disapprove of Italys military presence in Afghanistan. The threat, although it comes from only eight senators, cannot be ignored by Prodi because the governing coalition has a majority of just two in the upper house. Unless the rebels relent, the premier could face the embarrassment of being unable to win approval for a key part of his foreign policy without the votes of the centre-right opposition. This would be hu-miliating for Prodis administration, which has been in power for a little over a month. Defence Minister Arturo Parisi said that if the government was shown to lack a majority in parliament on the issue, there would have to be fresh elections.
The controversial decree is scheduled to go to the House for approval on July 17, after which it will go to the Senate. By then, the centre left will have to have reached an accord with the eight dissidents. The decree law approved by the cabinet also involved funding for Italys other military and humanitarian missions abroad. A total of 488 million euro were earmarked for 28 missions in 18 countries. Italy has a total of 8,013 soldiers involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations around the globe.