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Italian Officials Honor 3 Soldiers

April 30, 2006|From Reuters

ROME — Italian leaders paid tribute to three soldiers killed in Iraq last week when their bodies arrived at an airport here Saturday.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi placed his hands on the coffins of the men, who were killed when a roadside bomb struck their convoy southwest of Nasiriya, where Italian forces in Iraq are based.

Ciampi was accompanied at Ciampino Airport by officials including outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and veteran communist leader Fausto Bertinotti, who was elected speaker of the Chamber of Deputies earlier in the day.

Bertinotti and the new speaker of the Senate, Franco Marini, also elected Saturday, paid tribute to the soldiers in their first official speeches.

Unlike in the United States, Canada and other countries, where media coverage of returning bodies is restricted, the return of fallen Italian service members is given a high profile. The event was broadcast live on television.

The funeral of the men -- Nicola Ciardelli, Carlo de Trizio and Franco Lattanzio -- will take place Tuesday.

Under Berlusconi's government, Italy deployed about 3,000 troops to Iraq, the fourth-largest foreign contingent there, despite widespread domestic opposition to the war.

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