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Italy's lower house backs NATO membership for Finland and Sweden

FILE PHOTO: Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni arrives for a meeting at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, Italy January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Italy's Chamber of Deputies approved a bill on Tuesday to ratify the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO in a vote welcomed by Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party is seen as the front runner in the coming election.

The lower house voted by 398 votes to 20 in favour of the bill which now needs a second, final green light from the Senate.

"In the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine, strengthening the European front of the Alliance is an important step that can act as a deterrent to new Russian threats," Meloni said in a statement.

The accession needs to be ratified by the parliaments of all 30 North Atlantic Treaty Organization members before Finland and Sweden can be protected by the NATO defence clause that states that an attack on one member is an attack against all.

Meloni, whose party is the most popular in the conservative coalition ahead of the Sept. 25 election, had endorsed Prime Minister Mario Draghi's decision to ship weapons to Ukraine, even though it was in opposition to his government.

However, her two main allies, the League and Forza Italia, have been much more ambivalent, reflecting their historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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