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Italy, Libyan rebels sign refugee accord

NAPLES, Italy, June 17 (UPI) -- Italy signed an agreement Friday with a Libyan rebel leader in an effort to reduce the number of refugees from the war-torn North African country.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the National Transition Council of Libya, met in Naples, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Frattini said he expects "more transparent and coherent cooperation" than Italy has received from the government of Moammar Gadhafi.

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Italy is one of the main entry points for Africans trying to reach Europe. The wave of political unrest that swept across the Arab world this year has increased the flow, especially from Tunisia and now Libya, with 30,000 refugees since January reaching the island of Lampedusa, which is part of Italy but geographically closer to Tunisia.

The Northern League, one of the major partners in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-of-center government, said this week it might leave the coalition if Italy continues to participate in the NATO air campaign against Gadhafi.

Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, is scheduled to participate in a ceremony Sunday on Lampedusa to mark the 60th anniversary of World Refugee Day.

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