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Italy Says Ready To Increase Presence In Afghanistan

Italy currently has some 2,600 soldiers in Afghanistan.
ROME (Reuters) -- Italy is committed to increasing its military presence in Afghanistan, while reducing the number of troops in other areas, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said today.

"There is a commitment to increase the Italian presence in the overall Afghan operations, but counterbalanced [with a reduction] of our presence in different international theaters," La Russa told reporters.

Italy has some 2,600 troops in Afghanistan, having withdrawn 400 following Afghan elections. Some of these are there to train Afghan police and soldiers.

La Russa declined to say how many more troops Italy was willing to send or what role they would perform.

He spoke shortly after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office said in a statement that U.S. President Barack Obama had "asked for Italy's support in reinforcing the commitment of the international community in Afghanistan."

Berlusconi had responded "positively", and details will be discussed by the two countries' foreign ministers, the statement said.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters Italy had made no commitments.

"If and when a specific request arrives, Italy will consider it in a positive spirit," he said.