Thousands of pacifists have marched in Italy, calling for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon to be placed in the context of a wider settlement for the region. Italy has pledged the largest single contribution to the UN mission – between 2,000 and 3,000 soldiers.
Monica Sereni of the ruling Democratic Left coalition said that the pacifists were on the same wavelength as the politicians who worked with the United Nations and the European Union on the crisis in Lebanon. But she said: “We think the negotiations must continue and we must also look at how relations between Israel and the Palestinians evolve. The Middle East issue needs to stay on the political agenda.” Romano Prodi’s centre-left government’s commitment to the peacekeeping operation is seen as designed to give Italy a more independent presence on the international stage in the post-Berlusconi era.