In a recent meeting with his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, Italy’s Defence Minister Antonio Martino stated that Italy would begin planning when and how it will withdraw its troops from Iraq by January 2006. Prime Minister Berlusconi reiterated this position during a visit to Tunisia. Tentative plans are to remove troops in groups of about 300 by June 2006 and in accordance with the Iraqi government.Italy has sent about 2,900 troops since the Iraq war began in 2003 despite continued strong opposition from Italians.
The Defence Ministry also announced that the U.S. military would be withdrawing its submarines from La Maddalena naval base off the Sardinian coast. Politicians and residents of the island have long been opposed to the base, which is used as a servicing station for U.S. nuclear submarines. The Italian government originally approved of the base in 1972 without consulting the Parliament in Rome.