- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, the newly appointed Italian ambassador to the United States, objected to the term “war” to describe the conflict in Afghanistan, but he said Italy had dropped restrictions that had kept its troops away from the fighting.

In an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times Thursday, Mr. Terzi said that Afghanistan is a key component of Italian foreign policy.

“We are determined to remain there. Afghanistan could become again the nest for terrorist initiatives,” he said.

He said Western involvement in Afghanistan could best be described as “peacekeeping” instead of war, because it has been mandated by the U.N. Security Council.

“It is not a war in its typical sense. There has been no declaration of war in the terms of international law,” Mr. Terzi said. “It has many characteristics of a true war, an asymmetric war.”

Italy is the fourth largest contributor of troops, with a contingent of about 2,795, according to the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force.

Italy has been criticized for basing its soldiers in relatively safe regions of Afghanistan such as Kabul and in the west and keeping them away from the front lines.

Mr. Terzi said those restrictions had been lifted and there were no longer any “caveats” in Italy’s so-called rules of engagement.

In September, a suicide bombing killed six Italian soldiers.

Italy plans to deploy a new contingent of 200 carabinieri to help train Afghan police and the national army.

On the nuclear standoff with Iran, Mr. Terzi urged other Western nations to pursue a dual approach.

“The opening of a diplomatic dialogue made by President Obama and the five plus one meeting must remain in place, but also stricter measure must be considered. The West will not accept an Iranian nuclear weapon,” he said, referring to the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. The group has taken the lead in negotiating with Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, recently inspected a site that Iran had hidden in a mountainside near Qom that could produce about a ton of enriched uranium a year, complicating the negotiations.

Earlier this week, Iran rejected a proposal to ship its uranium out of the country, where it would be reprocessed into fuel rods for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.

On the recent conviction of 23 Americans for seizing a terrorist suspect and sending him to Egypt, where it was claimed he was tortured, Mr. Terzi said Italy was obeying the law.

“The law has to be applied. That is the responsibility of the judges,” he said.



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