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Italy asks for halt to NATO airstrikes

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Possible cracks emerged in NATO's Libya air campaign yesterday as Italy expressed concern about the accidental killing of civilians and called for a suspension in hostilities to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Britain, however insisted the alliance was "holding strong." Prime Minister David Cameron said in London that the NATO-led alliance would complete its task in Libya.

But skepticism over the military campaign is growing as weeks of airstrikes have failed to unseat Moammar Gadhafi and outrage rises over allegations that airstrikes have caused civilian casualties.

Two explosions shook Tripoli before noon Wednesday as fighter jets soared overhead. It wasn't clear what had been hit or if there were casualties.

In Rome, the Italian foreign minister called for a suspension in fighting so aid corridors could be set up.

"The humanitarian end of military operations is essential to allow for immediate aid," including in areas around Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Misrata, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said. He also expressed concern over civilian casualties, referring to "dramatic errors" in the bombing campaign.

Italy is Libya's former colonial ruler and maintains strong commercial ties to the country. Italy is participating in the NATO-led campaign by allowing use of its air bases to coalition partners and its own aircraft for missions.

Frattini's comments come three days after Premier Silvio Berlusconi's key political ally, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, called for an end to Italy's participation in the Libyan war.

The league, which is heavily anti-immigrant, has been vehemently opposed to the war because of fears it would unleash waves of refugees on Italy's shores. Some 20,000 people have arrived in Italy in recent months following unrest in Libya and Tunisia.

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