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Members of the Italian senate were set to vote Thursday evening and again on Friday on the future of the country’s military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new government headed by Romano Prodi has already announced plans to pull out of Iraq by the end of the year, but there is some sentiment in his coalition for taking the troops out of Afghanistan as well.

Thursday’s scheduled vote was to focus on funding for the country’s overseas missions. According to an online report by Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, at stake in the vote Thursday was 130 million euros to fund the mission in Iraq through the end of the year and 135 million euros to pay for expenses in Afghanistan. The entire measure, including other missions abroad, will be voted on Friday.

The funding measure was approved in the Chamber of Deputies last week. According to a report in Corriere Della Serra, the Milan-based newspaper, the vote was 549-4 with all of those opposed belonging to the Communist Refoundation, or PRC, party. One other deputy, Paolo Cacciari, decided to resign instead of voting.

But the vote was expected to be much closer in the Senate.

Prodi’s coalition has a small majority in each house, with the opposition still led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi, a strong ally of the Bush administration, has said in Italian media reports that the center-right will vote in favor of the measures to maintain consistent Italian policy. But he has said the measures wouldn’t pass without his coalition’s support.

Members of Prodi’s government have denied that claim and have adopted the strategy of calling for a vote of confidence on the measure. That would mean the newly formed government would essentially fall apart if the vote fails and new elections could be held.

Andrea Nativi, editor of the respected Italian defense review Rivista Italiana Difesa, said that senators who might otherwise oppose the measure are now likely to vote with the government to keep their jobs.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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