New Italian government proposes withdrawal of troops from Iraq

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Thursday, May 18, 2006


In his first speech since being sworn in as the country's leader, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi says the US-led invasion of Iraq had been a mistake. He says his new government will propose the withdrawal of Italy's 3000 troops from Iraq.

"We consider the war in Iraq and the occupation of the country a grave error," Mr Prodi told Italian Parliament this week. "It has not resolved, but complicated the situation of security. It is the intention of this government to propose to Parliament the return of our troops from Iraq." His speech resulted in jeers from Italy's centre right parties.

Mr Prodi said his government intends to continue "good relations" with Washington. He did not give a date for a withdrawal, saying a "technical timeframe" would have to be agreed with all sides involved. Italy's centre-left parties opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq three years ago.

Mr Prodi said his government will remain on the front lines in the war against terror and would participate in anti-terror operations if they were sanctioned by international organizations, such as the United Nations. "We are convinced participants in the war against terrorism, even militarily, when it is legitimized by an international organization to which we belong." he said.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was defeated in a tight election to Prodi's centre-left bloc in April this year. As opposition leader, Prodi has always opposed the war in Iraq. Berlusconi sent 3,000 troops to Iraq in 2003. The move was widely opposed by the Italian public.

Although troops were already expected to return home by the end of 2006, Prodi did not give an exact timeframe for the withdrawal. He said it would only happen in consultation with Iraqi authorities.