June 09, 2007

Italy's rocky relationship with Bush

U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday made his first visit to Italy since Romano Prodi came to power with a centre-left coalition that includes communists and pacifists staunchly opposed to much U.S. foreign policy.

Here are five facts on their rocky relationship.

* April 2006 -- Prodi beats Bush ally Berlusconi at election Prodi narrowly beats media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi who, as centre-right prime minister, styled himself Bush's closest ally in continental Europe. Prodi fulfils election pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq, but says they will stay in Afghanistan, a policy which will cause problems with the left of his coalition.

* February 2007 -- Thousands protest U.S. base expansion Leftists in Prodi's coalition support mass protests against plans to expand a U.S. military base in the town of Vicenza. Prodi resists pressure to withdraw consent for expansion, which was agreed under the Berlusconi administration, adding to strains between coalition centrists and leftists.

* February 2007 -- Afghan mission forces Prodi to resign Leftists in the Italian house Senate refuse to back a motion supporting Italy's military presence in a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Prodi resigns but President Giorgio Napolitano asks him to return and test his leadership in parliament. Prodi wins votes of confidence and demands more unity from coalition.

* April 2007 -- U.S. soldier tried for shooting Italian in Iraq U.S. soldier Mario Lozano goes on trial in abstentia accused of killing Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari at a road block in Iraq. Hailed as a national hero, Calipari was escorting left-wing Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad airport after she had been freed by hostage takers. Sgrena, also shot, survived to become a rallying point for Iraq war opponents.

* June 2007 -- Italy tries Americans for Muslim cleric kidnap On the day Bush arrived in Italy, a Milan court began to try 26 U.S. citizens, almost all believed to be CIA agents, accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric in Italy and flying him to Egypt where he says he was tortured. None of the Americans appeared at the trial which highlights European opposition to so-called "extraordinary renditions" used in the U.S. war on terrorism.

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