Italian forces leave to join US-led war effort


The aircraft carrier Garibaldi, the frigate Zeffiroand two other ships carrying a total of some 1,500 sailors left from southern Italy for the Arabian Sea, where they are expected to arrive at the end of the month.

Italy is expected to send around 2,500 troops to join US and British forces. It is not clear what precise role they will have in the operations.

Meanwhile Germany's planned mobilisation for the campaign in Afghanistan will begin in the coming days, with air transport and medical crews prepared for action, Defence Minister Mr Rudolf Scharping said today.

The German lower house of parliament approved the mobilisation of up to 3,900 troops for the US-led Afghanistan campaign on Friday.

Germany is offering 800 soldiers of its Fuchs units with armoured vehicles to check terrain for contamination, 250 medical staff, 100 special force troops who could take part in hit and run actions, transport aircraft with 500 personnel and naval vessels with 1,800 sailors to protect shipping.

An additional 450 support troops will be put on standby, bringing the total to 3,900.