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Defence chief says he is confident in Renzi on marines case

India not welcome in NATO exercises, says Italian military head

19 February, 15:13
Defence chief says he is confident in Renzi on marines case (ANSA) - Rome, February 19 - Italy's Chief of Defense Staff Luigi Binelli Mantelli said Wednesday that he is confident the new premier and his cabinet will support efforts for a swift resolution to the case of two Italian marines accused in India of killing two fishermen while on anti-piracy duty.

He said that Italy was also "opposed to the participation of Indian ships in NATO exercises".

"The marines affair is to be handled by any government taking office," said Binelli Mantelli, outside a conference at Rome's Luiss university.

Premier-designate Matteo Renzi is poised to form a government in the next few days.

"(Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, Defense Minister Mario Mauro) have taken charge (of the case) and I am certain that any government that will be formed will continue to support this commitment," he added.

"I do not know if it will solve the problem, but certainly it is not a passive attitude on the part of our government's commitment," he said.

Officials and the families of marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were frustrated on Tuesday when India's Supreme Court announced the latest in a series of delays in the case that has been percolating without charges for two years.

Bonino said she would be urging a range of allies, from the NATO military alliance to the United Nations as well as the European Union, to press the Indian government to deal with the situation. Latorre and Girone are accused of killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012. The EU is backing Italy and has said the case threatens the future of anti-piracy operations.

One week ago, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was "personally concerned" that two Italian marines may be facing charges laid by India under an international terrorism act.

He said the case could have "negative implications" for the fight against piracy, echoing European Union officials.