In a follow up to a story I posted yesterday
, PM Silvio Berlusconi has re-affirmed the Italian government's commitment to the effort against Islamo-Fascism in Europe:
Rome, 28 July (AKI) - Italy's 3,250 troops will remain in Afghanistan, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi stated on Tuesday. "There is no change of policy," he told journalists in Rome, reaffirming earlier statements made by defence minister Ignazio La Russa and foreign minister Franco Frattini.
Berlusconi dismissed as "hot air" reports of a rift over the issue with the conservative government's junior coalition partner, the Northern League.
"I understand that newspapers need to fill pages in the summer season, but this supposed rift is hot air," he stated.
La Russa and Frattini on Monday rejected calls by minister without portfolio and Northern League politician Roberto Calderoli to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
"In Afghanistan, we are working for Italy's security including that of Calderoli... we are staying," Frattini said in Brussels, during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.
"We cannot give up the mission in Afghanistan. What our lads are doing out there is crucial," said La Russa.
The Northern League's leader, Umberto Bossi, also urged the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan following a recent spate of attacks against Italian soldiers.
But in an apparent climb-down late on Monday, the party's chief parliamentary whips issued a joint statement saying: "The Northern League has always maintained the commitments it has made to the government and will also do so in this case."
The Italian parliament last week voted to extend the financing of all of Italy's 35 missions overseas.
A roadside bomb attack earlier this month killed a 25-year-old Italian soldier Alessandro Di Lisio while on patrol near the western Afghan city of Farah. Two attacks in Afghanistan at the weekend wounded three Italian soldiers and three Italian paratroopers were also injured in the bombing that killed Di Lisio.
Twelve Italian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2004.
Photo courtesy of Daylife-Getty Images
Labels: afghanistan, Franco Frattini, Italy, Silvio Berlusconi