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Taliban Urge Italian Troop Pullout To Free Reporter

The Taliban kidnapped Daniele Mastrogiacomo on March 3 (file photo) (epa) March 10, 2007 -- The Taliban has called for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Afghanistan to pave the way for the release of an Italian reporter they are holding on charges of spying.

The Taliban said on March 9 they would free Daniele Mastrogiacomo of the newspaper "La Repubblica" if he could prove he was not a spy.

But a Taliban spokesman, Mullah Hayatullah Khan, said the Taliban changed their mind after Italy's lower house of parliament voted in favor of keeping Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Separately, a Taliban commander, Mullah Dadullah, told AFP news agency that the militia had set a seven-day deadline for Italy to set a date for withdrawal.

The Italian lower house of parliament on March 8 voted to keep on 1,900 Italian troops. However, the extension still has to be approved by the upper house, the Senate, later this month.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government has a very narrow majority in the Senate.

(Reuters, AFP)

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