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Italian Withdrawal From Iraq by End of 2006
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi confirms plans while visiting Tunisia
Verdiana Amorosi (verdiana)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2005-11-24 11:23 (KST)   
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is now in Tunis meeting President Ben Ali. During a press conference, while answering a Tunisian journalist's question, Berlusconi said: "Italian troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2006. We spoke about it with allied forces and they agree. The position of the Italian government about the Iraqi situation has not changed."

He then added: "We have not participated in the war -- we intervened in a peace mission, with a peace contingent, after the United Nations 1546 resolution, that invited all countries to send troops in order to help the local people and assure public order. In this way, we created the conditions to establish democracy. And we did it with 34 other nations. We are now 29, and Italy represents the third country."

But Berlusconi also said that "Italy withdrew 10 percent of its troops in the last weeks, and the next steps will be gradual."

Deputy Minister of Defense Filippo Berselli, who is now in Nassiriya, stated: "The Italian mission in Iraq could conclude because the training of the local army and Iraqi police by Italian soldiers."

After that, he added: "Iraqi people recommend that Italian troops not leave their land, but it won't happen. If local stability will continue like this, after the month of June 2006, we could withdraw our contingent."

But Berlusconi also emphasized that with the help of Italian troops "more than 500 projects have been achieved: hospitals, schools, shops, but also the sewer system of Nassiriya. And Italian soldiers have also re-established electricity, roads, public offices. In other words, our presence in Iraq is positive and the Iraqi government said to us 'thank you' many times."

But he added: "In the next months, the homecoming will be gradual, the next year the situation could be unblocked definitely. Italian soldiers are doing a great job, the situation in Nassiriya is good, and it's impossible to compare that to the critical situation in Baghdad."

The Iraq war has never been popular with Italians, and since an election is close at hand, political watchers say Berlusconi appears to be making a final attempt at getting Italians behind his government's contribution to the coalition.
©2005 OhmyNews
Verdiana Amorosi is a student at Università della Tuscia di Viterbo, near Rome. Her interests include journalism and she has just finished her graduation thesis about online newspapers.
Other articles by reporter Verdiana Amorosi

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