ROME (AP) — Italy is prepared to offer logistical support for air operations against Islamic extremists in Mali, officials said Wednesday, as French troops launched a land assault to counter recent militant gains.
Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola told the Senate on Wednesday that Italy's offer of logistical support was confined to the air, not ground operations. "It's very important to look for a rapid solution to this crisis and prevent terrorist forces from becoming rooted in the territory," Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told the Senate committee.
Premier Mario Monti discussed Mali during a meeting with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but no details of the talks were released. French ground troops on Wednesday pressed northward in Mali toward territory occupied for months by Islamist militants in the start of a land assault that came after five days of airstrikes did little to erode Islamist gains.
On Tuesday, representatives from the Group of Eight said it was "essential" to halt the offensive by the Islamic militants, prevent the collapse of Mali's government and implement all U.N. resolutions concerning Mali.