Italy to begin Iraq troop withdrawal in September
AP | July 09 2005
The London Bombing happened AFTER plans to withdraw troops were announced
Italy plans to begin withdrawing some of its troops from Iraq in September, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday.
"We will begin withdrawing 300 men in the month of September," said Berlusconi, who has come under increasing pressure in Italy over his support for the US-led coalition in Iraq.
However, Berlusconi - speaking at the end of the G-8 summit - added that any withdrawal plans would depend on security conditions on the ground and could change. He said the partial pullout would not compromise security for the remaining Italian troops or the zone of southern Iraq under their control.
Berlusconi denied a withdrawal was linked to any terrorist threats against Italy, although he said he wasn't underestimating the potential danger.
In Rome, Defense Minister Antonio Martino said in a statement that the reduction of the Italian contingent would occur "on the basis of a precise schedule that will always be agreed upon with our allies and the Iraqi government."
Berlusconi, a staunch ally of US President George W. Bush, sent 3,000 troops to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein to help rebuild the country. The contingent is based in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.
In recent months, Italian officials have gone back and forth on when a withdrawal might begin. Berlusconi had said September was a possibility, but Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini then talked of early 2006.