Italy says "technical issues" delay supply of air defence system to Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Vice-President of Forza Italia Party Antonio Tajani attends the first voting session to elect the vice president at the lower house of parliament during, in Rome, Italy, October 19, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

ROME (Reuters) - Italy intends to supply Ukraine with a missile defence system to help protect it against Russia attacks but must deal with technical issues before it can be dispatched, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Tuesday.

Tajani was speaking after Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported on Monday that a decision on the supply of new arms to Ukraine had been delayed until next month due to political tensions, cost considerations and equipment shortages.

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 such as the Franco-Italian SAMP/T.

Tajani said Italy was working with the French to resolve issues prior to deployment of the SAMP/T.

"There is no brake on...but it takes time because there are technical problems to make the instruments work, the military commands are working on this," he told Italian radio.

Citing unspecified sources, la Repubblica reported on Monday that Meloni, who is a firm supporter of Kyiv, was 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.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, writing by Keith Weir, editing by Gavin Jones)

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