Prodi to intend withdrawing Italian troops from Iraq

Premier Romano Prodi and his defense and foreign ministers held talks Friday to map an exit strategy for the nation's troops in Iraq, who are being gradually withdrawn. No decision was expected to come out of the meeting, which was dealing with "technical matters," said Prodi's spokesman, Silvio Sircana. Two days earlier Defense Minister Arturo Parisi and Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema held their first meeting about withdrawal plans, including the timing and manner.

Prodi had opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq and pledged during his campaign for the elections in April which brought him and his center-left allies to power to bring Italian troops home and replace the contingent with a civilian force. He has said the timing of the pullout would be worked out with allies and the Iraqis.

In contrast, former conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi defied widespread opposition at home and sent about 3,000 soldiers to Iraq to help with reconstruction after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003. However, he, too, began withdrawing troops before Italy's election last month and said all Italian troops would be brought home by year end. It was unclear how Prodi's withdrawal plans might differ from that of Berlusconi's government. Italy has some 2,600 troops in Iraq, reports the AP.

N.U.