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Pressure Grows On Italy to Pull Troops from Iraq


Italy's center-left leader Romano Prodi faced calls from some of his allies to speed up a withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq. The calls followed a bomb blast on an Italian convoy in southern Iraq, which killed 3 Italian soldiers.

Italy's prime minister in waiting Romano Prodi insisted that the bombing in Iraq, which killed three Italian soldiers would not make him speed up plans to withdraw Italian troops.

Prodi said this is a tragedy, which once again has struck the whole of Italy. He added that the position of the center-left coalition, that will govern Italy, had not changed.

Prodi's government is not expected to take office before mid-May. He has vowed to bring the troops home only after consultations with the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi authorities.

But news of the attack prompted some politicians with the more extremist parties of his coalition to call for a speedy withdrawal, revealing existing differences on the issue of the presence of Italian troops in Iraq.

The Italian Defense Ministry said three Italians and a Romanian soldier were killed when a roadside bomb targeted a four-vehicle convoy on its way to relieve troops at the local Iraqi police station in the city of Nassiriya. Another Italian was seriously wounded.

Defense Minister Antonio Martinob was visibly shaken when he provided the names of the victims and gave the first report of the attack.

Martino said in this circumstance as in other tragic moments of the past, the country is united in heartfelt participation in the mourning of the armed forces.

All Italian troops in Iraq are based in Nassiriya. Under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Italy had begun withdrawing its troops and was expected to bring all of its soldiers home from Iraq by the end of 2006.

Italy has suffered relatively low casualties in Iraq compared to the United States and Britain. The latest attack was the deadliest against Italian soldiers in Iraq since the killing of 19 soldiers in a suicide bombing in Nassiriya in November 2003.

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