Italy's Ukraine arms supply decision delayed until February - paper

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks during a news conference to present her government's first budget in Rome, Italy, November 22, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy will not take a decision on the supply of new arms to Ukraine until February due to political tensions, cost considerations and military shortages, newspaper la Repubblica reported on Monday.

Two weeks ago Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Rome was considering supplying air defences after a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in which she reaffirmed her government's "full support" for Ukraine.

Shortly afterwards, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto struck a cautious tone on whether Italy would be able to supply Ukraine with air defence systems.

Citing unspecified sources, la Repubblica reported that Meloni, who is a firm supporter of Kyiv, is facing resistance on the approval of a decree to send arms to Ukraine from her right-wing allies Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi.

Both politicians have longstanding ties with Moscow.

But sources from their respective political parties - Salvini's League and Berlusconi's Forza Italia - on Monday denied having any problems with the decree.

Another issue holding back the decision is concern about depriving the Italian army of air defence systems, la Repubblica wrote, as two of its five missile batteries are already committed to Kuwait and Slovakia.

The third concern, according to the daily, is the cost of the arms that are supposed to be sent to Kyiv.

Zelenskiy is pressing Ukraine's Western allies to step up military aid to help counter Russian missile and drone strikes on civilian infrastructure.

Under former Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Italy sent five aid packages to Kyiv including military supplies, and Meloni's government, installed in October, has been working for weeks on a possible sixth delivery.

Crosetto and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani's press offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro, editing by Alvise Armellini, William Maclean)

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