Frattini Says Italy ‘Seeking Proper Way Out’ of South Lebanon

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that his country is seeking a proper way to reduce its peacekeeping unit in Lebanon and it is discussing the issue with the concerned parties, news agencies reported.

“We intent on carrying out this decision, we will find the proper way to do it,” Frattini said.

His statement came hours after a bomb targeted a U.N. patrol along a highway near the Lebanese southern city of Sidon, where six Italian peacekeepers were wounded.

The FM stressed that the reduction of the Italian contingent will be gradual.

“We can't be just saying we're going to leave tomorrow. It’s going to be a gradual reduction,” Frattini said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, Italian defense minister Ignazio La Russa stressed that Italy "has no intention of abandoning Lebanon" but he said that he wanted to cut Rome's contribution to UNIFIL.

"At the moment we have 1,780 soldiers, but it's too many. As we are no longer in command of the mission, then we should reduce our contribution to 1,100 as soon as possible," he told the daily.

The minister said that Italy, along with Spain, would immediately push for "other European and Latin American countries to become involved."

Italy has one of the largest contingents in the multinational force, which currently has 12,000 troops stationed in south Lebanon.

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