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Prodi says would have good US ties despite Iraq

Written by: Staff

ROME, Mar 30 (Reuters) Romano Prodi, Italy's centre-left candidate for prime minister, today said that if elected his government's relations with the United States would be good and honest despite differences on Iraq.

''The one thing that there was not agreement on is the war in Iraq,'' he told a news conference when asked about how relations with Washington would be if his coalition won the April 9-10 polls.

''But let's distinguish between a friendship that has been solid and long-lasting with the United States and the problem of Iraq,'' he said.

Italy's centre-left parties opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq three years ago, but the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi backed it.

Italy has about 2,600 troops in Iraq in peacekeeping roles.

They are due to be withdrawn in groups before the end of the year.

''There are no two ways about it,'' Prodi said. ''There is no agreement (on Iraq) and there is no sense trying to find one. I think that among friends it is important to say what you think, both when you are in agreement and when you are not,'' he said.

''I have such a great regard for the United States, having studied there and taught there for part of my life, to be able to say that the United States needs these types of friends,'' he said.

Prodi said Italy and Europe needed good ties with Washington, saying: ''There is no possibility of peace without close ties with the United States.'' REUTERS PR RAI2119

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