Nigeria's Failed Hostage Rescue:Italy rage at Britain

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ROME, March 9, 2012 (AFP) – Italy’s Premier Mario Monti held a security committee meeting on Friday as anger spread over Britain’s failure to consult Italy before approving an attempt to rescue an Italian and Briton in Nigeria.

The interministerial committee for the security of the Republic (CISR) was meeting to reconstruct the events of the failed British and Nigerian operation to save Franco Lamolinara and Chris McManus, who were kidnapped last year.

“The tragic episode in Nigeria is unbelievable. The Italians are clearly humiliated,” said Antonio Puri Purini, columnist for the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which spoke of the government’s “rage” over the diplomatic incident.

“It is an unacceptable slap in the face and saying sorry is not enough,” it said.

Monti was only informed by Britain once the blitz was already underway and the Repubblica described the “dramatic phone call” with British Prime Minister David Cameron in which Monti demanded “details on exactly what happened.”

“This is a blow for Italy’s new-found international credibility,” it said.

Former Italian prime minister Massimo d’Alema, now in charge of a parliamentary committee dealing with security issues, criticised the rescue bid, complaining that it was apparently mounted without Italy being notified.

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“It needs to be clarified why the British authorities decided to launch a military operation without informing us. We will get to the bottom of this,” he said on Thursday.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, a politician with the centre-right People of Freedom Party (PDL), said: “What happened in Nigeria is incredibly serious.”

Britain has said it gave the go-ahead on the operation because the men’s lives were in “imminent and growing danger”.

As Italian national pride smarted, Raffaello Matarazzo, research fellow at the Institute of International Affairs in Rome, said Italy’s exclusion from the decision-making was “a serious diplomatic incident” which would embarrass Rome.

The diplomatic slight “comes at a moment when Italy is improving its image on the international stage and the government is clawing back trust among its European partners,” he said.

While the argument is “also a bit of a blow to Monti’s current attempts to improve relations with Great Britain,” Matarazzo said he thought relations between the two countries “will not be seriously damaged.”

“These sorts of secret operations are very delicate and can blow up at any time,” he said. “Italy knows that.”