Iraq: Prodi says torture changes meaning of mission

Romano Prodi, European Commission President and shadow leader of Italy's centre-left opposition, said today the justification for the Allied troop presence in Iraq had been undermined by reports of torture.

Speaking at a book presentation in this Adriatic port city, Prodi said the evidence of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops had introduced a "new element" into the political landscape which changed things.

"After these events the moral and ethical reason for going to Iraq is no longer there," he said.

It was unclear whether he was speaking as President of the European Commission or as head of the Italian opposition, which he is expected to lead when his term of office in Brussels ends in October.

Prodi recalled that he had always condemned the US-led war in Iraq. Despite succeeding in toppling Saddam Hussein, the military action had shocked the Arab and Muslim world, he added.

He noted that the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano had defined the torture detailed in photos and videos as war crimes.

"If the Osservatore Romano is talking about war crimes, it's difficult to define this a peace mission."

The Italian government has said it will keep its 3,000 troops in Iraq despite the torture reports. The opposition is ready to call for troop withdrawal unless the United Nations steps in within a few weeks.

[Source: ANSA, Ancona, Ita, 13May04]

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War in Iraq
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