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Italy seeking Afghan war exit strategy

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he wants his country’s troops to withdraw from Afghanistan soon, but has given no timetable.

He made the remarks on Tuesday, the same day that Italian troops held an emotional tribute for two Italian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The Italian Foreign Ministry says two Italian soldiers were among the 12 killed by a roadside bomb near the western city of Herat on Monday while their convoy was travelling from Herat to Bala Murghab in the north.

Twenty-two Italians have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi told reporters on Tuesday that it is in the “best” interests of the country that its troops exit Afghanistan as soon as possible, but he did not give any timeline for a withdrawal.

Since it is an international operation, a decision cannot be taken by an individual country, he said, adding, “Doing so could betray the accord and trust of the other countries present.”

The 500 troops Italy sent to Afghanistan this summer will be home by Christmas, Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said on Friday. The troops were sent ahead of the Afghan presidential election of August 20.

The 2,800 Italian troops in Afghanistan will withdraw only when NATO calls for it, La Russa said.

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