The Italian government has confirmed the execution of one of the Italian hostages in Iraq. Confirmation was given by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during a late Wednesday night talk show on state television.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed the killing of 36-year-old Fabrizio Quattrocchi, one of the four Italian security guards abducted Monday in Iraq. He said the Italian ambassador in Doha had seen video footage of the killing.

The Arab television network Al Jazeera earlier had reported the killing with a message from the kidnappers, a group which calls itself Green Battalion. The message included a threat that unless Italy met their demands the other three Italian hostages would also be executed.

The kidnappers have demanded the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq, an official apology from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for Italy's insults to Islam, and the release of religious detainees in Iraq.

Reacting to the news of the killing, Mr Berlusconi declared: They have destroyed a life but they have not shaken our values of commitment for peace. His words appeared to indicate Italy's resolve to stay in Iraq.

Italy has around 3,000 soldiers based in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiryah for reconstruction efforts. The troops were deployed one year ago at the end of the Iraqi war.

Mr Berlusconi also announced that one of his envoys was leaving for Baghdad on a diplomatic mission to safeguard the lives of the three other Italians held hostage in Iraq.