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The Italian government’s decision not to oppose U.S. military expansion of its base and military population in the northern city of Vicenza has drawn a slew of protests — from pupils, who lobbed tomatoes Thursday at government buildings, to parliament’s far-left politicians, who have threatened to withhold funding for military operations, Italian news media reported.

On Thursday, hundreds of middle- and high-school pupils protested in Vicenza — and while the morning protest ended without serious problems, they pummeled government buildings with tomatoes, according to ANSA, an Italian news service.

The children marched with a banner that translated into “No new bases, not at Dal Molin or elsewhere.”

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the government would not oppose the expansion of the base at Vicenza or the U.S. military’s use of the airfield Dal Molin.

Lawmakers from the far left in Italy’s governing coalition have threatened to vote against refinancing the country’s mission in Afghanistan on Thursday, two days after denouncing the government’s acceptance of a U.S. request to expand a military base in northern Italy.

The rebellion within Prodi’s coalition could put him in a tough spot: his government relies on a slim parliamentary majority to pass legislation, and Prodi is vulnerable to opposition allegations that he does not have support from his own allies.

“In Afghanistan we’re facing a losing strategy and Italy must have the strength and the autonomy to reopen a discussion,” Paolo Cento, undersecretary for the economy and a leader of the radical leftist Green Party, told The Associated Press.

On Wednesday, far-left lawmakers, led by the Communist Party, called for a referendum on the expansion issue, saying it should be left up to Vicenza’s voters.

The Southern European Task Force (Airborne) has proposed bringing about 1,600 troops from Bamberg and Schweinfurt, Germany, to Vicenza, bringing the Army population there to about 4,200.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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