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Italy To Withdraw Iraq Troops In September

15 March 2005 -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says Italy will start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September.

Italian news agencies report Berlusconi said "public opinion" expects such a decision.

Speaking on Italian television, he said that by September, the government will begin "a progressive reduction" of troops in Iraq.

But he said pulling out Italian troops will depend on the capability of the Iraqi government to exercise reasonable security.

Italy has some 3,000 troops in Iraq, and Berlusconi has been a big supporter of U.S. President George W. Bush. But the shooting of an Italian secret service agent by American troops in Iraq this month has further eroded the support of the Italian public for the war.

Ukraine began its troop withdrawal from Iraq today by flying home 140 troops. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has promised to pull all soldiers out of Iraq by the end of October.

In Sofia, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov called for his country to withdraw its 450 troops from Iraq by the end of the year.