`US confronted Italy about payments to Taliban`

Italy has already denied claims that it paid protection money to Taliban and other militants.

Rome: Diplomatic cables showed the United States confronted Italy about claims it paid Taliban not to attack its troops in Afghanistan, noting it suffered fewer casualties than other forces, media reported on Friday.

Italy has already denied claims that it paid protection money to Taliban and other militants in an area where 10 French soldiers were killed in an ambush in February 2008 soon after taking over from Italian forces.

The United States was so concerned about the allegations that its then ambassador to Rome raised them with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Espresso reported, citing leaked cables from 2008 released by WikiLeaks.

In an October 2008 message to Washington, ambassador Ronald Spogli praised Italy`s decision to send troops to western Afghanistan under the NATO-led International Security Assistance (ISAF) mission.

"Unfortunately, the significance of this contribution has been undermined by Italy`s growing reputation for avoiding combat and paying ransom and protection money.”

"This reputation is based in part on rumours, in part on intelligence which we have not been fully able to corroborate," he said.

"True or false, the fact remains that Italy has lost 12 soldiers in Afghanistan -- fewer than most allies with comparable responsibilities," it said.

"I have raised this issue with PM Berlusconi in the past. He assured me that he was unaware of any such activity and would put a stop to it if he found evidence of it."



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