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Italy official says Libya toll tops 1,000

Italy official says Libya toll tops 1,000
An image taken from footage broadcast on Libyan state television on February 22, 2011 shows Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi gesturing while delivering a nationwide address in Tripoli. Kadhafi says he will stay in Libya despite the bloody showdown between protesters and his security forces. UPI/Ismael Mohamad | License Photo

ROME, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The number of dead in Libya probably exceeds 1,000, the Italian foreign minister said Wednesday.

Franco Frattini told reporters in Rome the high estimates of casualties in Libya's uprising "appear to be true," The New York Times reported.

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Speaking to Parliament later, he warned of "Islamic radicalism" and "the rise of an Islamic emirate" in eastern Libya, which has slipped from the Gadhafi regime's control.

"This radical Islamism worries us because it is only a few hundred kilometers from the European Union," Frattini said, while adding, "nothing can justify the violent killing of hundreds of innocent civilians."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been under pressure to use his close ties with Col. Moammar Gadhafi to urge him to stop the violence.

Italy gets much of its natural gas from Libya and in 2008 promised $5 billion over 20 years in return for help stemming illegal immigration and favorable treatment for Italian investment.

The pact also bars the countries from using their territories to attack each other or interfere in their affairs, which could complicate Italy's options in the event of NATO intervention.

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