Italy’s newly sworn in prime minister, Romano Prodi, has been outlining his policy programme to the country’s upper house. He addressed senators on foreign affairs issues, the economy, and social policy. Much of the focus was on Italy’s external relations. Prodi, a former EU Commission president, said the national and the European interest should be one and the same.
The issue of Iraq proved to be as divisive as ever. Prodi’s predecessor Silvio Berlusconi was a close ally of President Bush and backed the Iraq war. The new prime minister stated that conflict had been a “grave error.” “The war did not resolve the problem of security, but aggravated it,” he said to jeers from centre-right senators. He confirmed he would pull Italian troops out of Iraq, but did not give a date, saying a timeframe would be worked out in consultation with allies. Rome has 2,600 soldiers stationed mainly in the south of the country to help with reconstruction. Support for Italian involvement in Iraq took a severe battering in November 2003 when 19 soldiers were killed in an attack in Nasiriya.