(ANSA) - Rome, September 20 – Green Party President Angelo Bonelli said Thursday he is filing a counter-suit against Italian environmental Minister Corrado Clini for damaging both his and his party's image, as a political and legal spat revolving around Italian steelworks ILVA heated up. Bonelli's comments came as a new study concluded residents in the area where ILVA operates in southern Italy face a heightened risk of death and after Clini on Wednesday announced his ministry would file a lawsuit against Bonelli for slander and for spreading "false information creating general panic". A report by the Italian Association of Epidemology based on court data said on Thursday the general mortality rate in Taranto was 8-27% higher than the national average, malignant tumours 5-42% more common, cardiovascular diseases 10-28% more frequent and respiratory illnesses 8-64% higher. This would seem to support criticisms that for years, the ILVA steel plant - one of Europe's largest - has emitted toxic pollution into the community's environment. "I have given a mandate to my lawyer Andreozzi to file the report against Minister Clini, asking for damages for his affirmations damaging both myself and the image of the Green party" said Bonelli. The damages "will be given to the families of ILVA employee victims". "Clini should resign because at this point in time he isn't carrying out the functions that a minister should carry out", Bonelli said. "At this point in time, Italy doesn’t have an environmental minister". The higher risk associated with environmental factors was the justification used by prosecutors in July to shut down parts of the plant and order expensive upgrades - a move that the Italian government, the company, and unions at the plant have been fiercely fighting. Bonelli said his aim was to "bring a bit of justice in the name of an unemployed and environmentally polluted population" when he announced his counter-suit on Thursday.