[Marxism] To blunt protest, Italy govt sets out-of-Iraq move for September

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 16 03:16:00 MST 2005

Italy plans withdrawal, further eroding U.S.-led coalition 
Rome to start pullout in September,joining at least 14 other countries

The Associated Press
Updated: 3:38 a.m. ET March 16, 2005

ROME - Italy, one of Washington's most stalwart allies in Iraq,
announced it could begin pulling its troops out in September, an
acknowledgment by Premier Silvio Berlusconi that Italian public opinion
is heavily against the war.

The announcement Tuesday by the conservative leader was the most
high-profile crack in what the U.S. administration has boasted in the
past was a solid alliance. The Netherlands is ending its mission this
month, and Poland plans to withdraw some troops in July.

"Starting with the month of September, we would like to proceed with a
gradual reduction of our soldiers," on condition that Iraq could provide
"acceptable" security, Berlusconi said.

Word from one of President Bush's closest allies that some of Italy's
3,300 troops would start leaving Iraq within year's end came as the
Italian leader confirmed he is running to keep the premiership in
general elections in spring 2006.

Italy's casualties
Hours earlier, Italy suffered its latest casualty in Iraq, the 21st
military member killed since it sent in some 3,000 troops after the
ouster of Saddam Hussein. The nation lost 19 Italians, most of them
military members, in the November 2003 suicide truck bombing of Italian
paramilitary police barracks in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq.

Italy is also still grappling with the shock and outrage over the
killing of an Italian intelligence agent earlier this month as he was
accompanying a just-freed Italian hostage to Baghdad airport. U.S.
soldiers patrolling near the airport mistakenly fired on the car in
which the two were traveling.

The premier said he had spoken about the situation with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, another of Bush's closest allies in Iraq.

As the situation stands now, the reduction in the number of Italian
forces will start "even before the year's end, in agreement with our
allies," the Italian added.

Italy's defense minister had previously said coalition troops in Iraq
could be cut gradually after Iraq's elections in January if Iraq could
provide its own security, but he didn't specify a timetable.

Italian leaders have demanded U.S. authorities conduct a transparent
investigation of the shooting death of military intelligence agent
Nicola Calipari on March 4 near Baghdad airport.

"Bush knows he can't disappoint his faithful ally" about the probe, said
Berlusconi, who previously tried to get political mileage of his
friendship with the American leader.

U.S. 'appreciates the contributions'
In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "We certainly
appreciate the contributions of the Italians" and said he didn't see a
link between the Italian troop withdrawal announcement and Calipari's
killing. The former hostage, an Italian journalist, was wounded in the
same shooting.

After the shooting incident, Berlusconi's government had made it clear
it wasn't yanking its contingent from Iraq.

About the same time Berlusconi was announcing the September date, the
Chamber of Deputies was approving extended financing for the nation's
military mission in Iraq.

C 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7193188/

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