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Italy to Withdraw Troops from Iraq

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4260541 Italy to Withdraw Troops from Iraq By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor Prime Minister Tony Blair’s hopes of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 15, 2005
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      http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4260541

      Italy to Withdraw Troops from Iraq

      By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

      Prime Minister Tony Blair�s hopes of restoring
      stability in Iraq were dealt a fresh blow tonight
      after Italy announced plans to start withdrawing its
      troops.

      Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said in Rome that he
      would begin a �progressive reduction� of the
      3,000-strong Italian contingent from September.

      The announcement is a setback for Mr Blair and US
      President George Bush as the Italian government was
      one of the strongest supporters of the American-led
      coalition.

      However public opposition in Italy has intensified
      following the shooting of secret service agent Nicola
      Calipari who died when US troops mistakenly opened
      fire on his vehicle as he was escorting a hostage to
      freedom.

      Mr Berlusconi, who said that he had discussed the
      withdrawal with Mr Blair, acknowledged that public
      opinion had played a part in the decision.

      �I�ve spoken about it with Tony Blair and it�s the
      public opinion of our countries that expects this
      decision,� he said during the recording of a TV talk
      show.

      There was no immediate response tonight from either
      Downing Street or the Foreign Office.

      However Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir
      Menzies Campbell said that it seemed clear that Italy
      had drawn up its own �exit strategy� from Iraq and
      that Britain should follow suit.

      �It is time the UK showed a similar resolve. Britain�s
      objective should be to achieve the withdrawal of
      British forces by the expiry date of the UN mandate
      which ends in December 2005,� he said.

      It was not immediately clear from Mr Berlusconi�s
      comments how far the withdrawal would go.

      Mr Blair and Mr Bush will draw some comfort from his
      remark that the pull-out would still �depend on the
      capability of the Iraqi government to give itself
      structures for acceptable security�.

      America�s most senior military officer today warned
      that despite progress in stabilising Iraq, much more
      needed to before the coalition could start handing
      over responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.

      �There�s a long way to go,� the Chairman of the Joint
      Chief�s of Staff, General Richard Myers, told
      reporters during visit to Baghdad.
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