Italian MPs reject Iraq exit

Center-left opposition lawmakers have led a virulent campaign, backed by majority public opinion, for an immediate withdrawal of Italian troops.

That pressure has increased in recent days with the repatriation of Italy’s first combat casualty in Iraq.

Corporal Matteo Vanzan, 23, was killed during clashes with Shia militia in Nasiriyah on May 17.

Nineteen Italians have also been killed in Iraq after a bomb attack last November.

A poll published by the La Repubblica newspaper on May 20 indicated that 59 percent of Italians want their troops to leave Iraq even if the United Nations asks Italy to stay on after the June 30th handover.

In parliament, Mr Berlusconi slammed opposition politicians for demanding that Italian troops be pulled out, accusing them of serving the interests of “enemies of democracy”.

However, the prime minister’s ally and coalition partner, the far-right Northern League, has also expressed reservations about extending the mandate of Italy’s troops beyond June 30, when the coalition is to return sovereignty to Iraqis.

Mr Berlusconi also came under fire for his visit to Washington a day earlier to hold talks with US President George W Bush.

“You didn’t travel to Washington to pave the way for the UN in Iraq, but to seek, once again, legitimacy from Bush,” charged Piero Fassino, the leader of the main Democratic Left opposition party.

After hearing Mr Berlusconi, the lower chamber of parliament voted on an opposition-sponsored motion to withdraw the troops, rejecting the motion 285 voices to 219.

The vote stood little chance of passing, with right-wing coalition parties largely dominant in the legislature.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation