Silvio, get hold of yourself. “Berlusconi in trouble over troop pull-out pledge,” from the Times Online, :
Silvio Berlusconi was tonight forced into a partial climbdown after his surprise announcement on live television last night that Italy would begin withdrawing its forces from Iraq in September.
The off the cuff remark took Downing Street by surprise. This morning it emerged that Britain, which controls the 3,200 Italian troops and paramilitary police in the southern city of al-Nasiriyah, had not been informed of the Italian Prime Minister’s “exit strategy”.
Neither had President Ciampi or Gianfranco Fini, the Italian Foreign Minister, who are both visiting the UK this week, or the state Parliament.
Tony Blair issued an urgent statement saying that the Italian premier had been “misinterpreted”. He told Parliament today: “Their [the Italian] position is exactly the same as ours, which is that there should be a build up of Iraqi forces so that security is increasingly taken over by them.
“Neither the Italian government nor ourselves have set some deadline to withdraw.”
After a conversation with the US President, George Bush, Signor Berlusconi appeared to be forced to backtrack, issuing a statement that tonight that Italy will not begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September without the consent of its US and British allies….
And no more Aethelred the Unready acts, either, ok, Silvio? “Italy to stop paying ransoms,” from the Times Online again, and again :
THE Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has promised President George W Bush that he will not pay more ransoms to free hostages in Iraq.
The Italian government has denied newspaper reports that $6m (Â£3.1m) was paid for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, who worked for the Communist daily Il Manifesto. But senior officials and intelligence sources have confirmed that money did change hands.