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Italy reverses position on Libya air strikes

Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET

ROME - Italy will take part in strategic bombing raids in NATO's Libya mission, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday, following a phone call with President Obama.

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Berlusconi's office said in a statement that Italy had decided to beef up its military action in Libya to better contribute to protecting civilians.

Italy had previously said it would not participate in airstrikes against Libyan targets, given its 40-year colonial rule over the country, but in Monday's statement it said it had decided to increase its "operational flexibility."

The statement stressed that Italian airstrikes would only be against "specific military objectives."

Berlusconi will discuss Italy's decision with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Rome on Tuesday, the statement said.

Italian aircraft and navy ships had previously only been involved in NATO's Libya mission for refueling and other operations.

Rebels have complained that NATO-led firepower hasn't been sufficient to help them advance against Muammar Qaddafi's forces.

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