Italy will start planning troop withdrawal from Iraq info
Italy will start planning troop withdrawal from Iraq by January 2006, minister says
ROME - (AP) Italy will begin by January 2006 to plan when and
how it will withdraw its troops from Iraq, Italy's defense minister said
Tuesday, according to his ministry.
Antonio Martino, who was in Washington, made the remarks after
meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Italian Defense
Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry noted, however, that "the gradual withdrawal of the
soldiers will not amount to an Italian abandonment of the commitments made
with the allies and the Iraqi government."
Italy sent about 2,900 troops to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam
Hussein, despite strong opposition among Italians. The center-right
government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi has said it plans to withdraw the
troops in groups of 300 and in accordance with the Iraqi government, likely
in the first half of 2006. Berlusconi reiterated that position Tuesday
during a visit to Tunisia.
Opposition leader Romano Prodi, who opposed the Iraq war, has said
he would replace Italian troops in Iraq with a civilian force if his
center-left coalition wins upcoming elections.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said repeatedly during a visit to
Italy earlier this month that coalition forces should not leave Iraq until
the country can guarantee its own security. Talabani also said that any
decision to withdraw foreign troops from Iraq should be made after
consultation with and agreement from Iraqi authorities.
Separately, the ministry said the United States was withdrawing its
submarines from La Maddalena, a tiny island off Sardinia's north coast that
hosts a U.S. Naval support facility. The move is part of a general
reshuffling of U.S. military forces and resources throughout Europe, and the
timing of the move will be decided later, the ministry said.
Politicians and residents on the islands have opposed the servicing
of U.S. nuclear submarines, and objected to the Italian government's
approving La Maddalena for a base in 1972 without consulting Parliament in
Two years ago, a fast attack submarine touched the sea bottom in
shallow water near La Maddalena, prompting alarm. However, no one was
injured and there was no environmental damage.