U.N.'s Annan arrives in Italy for talks

However, the timing of the secretary general's meeting coincided with an ongoing dispute within the governing coalition over what Italy's role in Afghanistan should be.

Prodi's center-left government is sticking to its campaign promises to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of the year, but it supports the Afghan mission because of NATO and EU involvement. Italy has about 1,800 troops in Kabul and Herat.

The government earlier this month approved financing to continue Italy's military mission in Afghanistan despite opposition from a group of far-left allies in the legislature who want to end Italy's military presence there.

However, it still must be approved by both chambers of Parliament later this month, and resistance to the mission was still strong on the part of Communist and Green Party politicians, according to the AP.

During a visit to Brussels on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema indicated to reporters that he would quit rather that allow Italy to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under his watch.

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