Afghanistan: Italy denies report it bribed Taliban forces
A Times of London story charges that Italy paid Taliban not to attack Italian forces, and that its lack of disclosure of the practice had catastrophic consequences for French replacements.
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The Guardian writes that the Italian minister of defense slammed the Times report as "rubbish" and announced plans to sue the newspaper, while the office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi "stopped short of an outright denial."Skip to next paragraph
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The official statement said "the Berlusconi government" had never authorised or allowed payments to insurgents, and "nor is it aware of any such initiatives set in motion by the previous government". ...
The Italians soldiers left the base at Sarobi in July 2008, less than three months after Berlusconi's government took office. The go-ahead for any payments, if any were given, is more likely to have come from Italy's previous, centre-left administration, headed by Romano Prodi.
Berlusconi's office noted, however, that in the first of half of 2008, the Italian troops stationed east of Kabul had come under several attacks, and that in one of these an Italian officer had been killed.
A spokeswoman for Prodi, said he "is not aware and was never aware of the events reported by the Times". His defence minister, Arturo Parisi, said he "never authorized, nor allowed, nor was ever informed of any form of payment to Taliban terrorists".
But despite the Italian denials, The Times has stood by its report. Euronews writes that Tom Coghlan, who reported the story, said that "we know about those payments ... because the US intelligence services, according to our sources inside NATO, managed to tap phone conversations between insurgent commanders and Italian intelligence agents." The Times also published a second story, citing a Taliban commander and several unnamed Afghan officials who confirmed that a deal had been made between Italian forces and the Taliban.