Italy's foreign minister said yesterday that all Italian troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year, giving the first official time frame for a complete pull-out by the new centre-left government.
The previous government also had vowed to bring all its forces home by the end of the year.
Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said Italy would begin reducing the number of Italian troops in Iraq this month and "the Italian military presence in Iraq will end by the end of the year."
Italy's decision to pull out its 2,700 troops the fourth largest contingent of foreign forces behind the United States, Britain and South Korea is the latest blow to the current 26-nation coalition.
South Korea began bringing troops home late last month as part of a plan to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 soldiers from northern Iraq by year's end.
The announcement of the timeframe came two days after an attack Italian military convoy in southern Iraq that killed a soldier and wounded four others. But D'Alema, who was in Baghdad to discuss the plans with Iraqi leaders, said it was strictly a political decision.
Premier Romano Prodi, who took office last month after elections that ousted staunch US ally Silvio Berlusconi from power, also told parliament on Tuesday that the attack would not speed up Italy's pull-out plans.
Source: China Daily