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Mar 26, 2013 at 08:57pm IST

Italian Foreign Minister resigns over decision to send marines

New Delhi: Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Tuesday resigned over decision to send Italian marines to India for trial. Terzi on Friday had defended the move in an interview with 'La Repubblica' and had rejected calls from Italian politicians for him to quit.

"I don't see a reason to" resign, Terzi had said, adding that the temporary stand-off with India had helped Italy ensure the marines would be treated well.

The Italian minister reportedly announced his resignation inside the Parliament. "I resign in contention with the decision to send the marines back to Italy. The misgivings I expressed had no effect on the decision taken," the 66-year-old told the Parliament.

The Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year had returned to New Delhi on March 22 after India gave an assurance that they will not face death penalty nor will they be arrested, bringing to an end a raging 11-day diplomatic row between the two countries. The marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, arrested in connection with the killing of the fishermen in February last year returned accompanied by Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura in a military plane.

The dramatic u-turn by the Italian government, which had earlier said the two marines would not be sent back, enabled the marines to meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court when it gave them permission to go for a month to vote in the elections there. Italy had said it was important to suspend the diplomatic assurance on sending back its marines as it needed to obtain assurances from India that the soldiers won't face death penalty.

Defending their initial decision not to send back their marines even at the cost of diplomatic breach of assurance, Mistura had said in New Delhi that death penalty was unacceptable and became an issue for the Italian government when the Supreme Court talked about setting up of a special court to try the soldiers.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had said that no deal has been worked out with Italy for bringing back the marines but the government had "clarified" to authorities in Rome that the case does not entitle death penalty.

With Additional Inputs from PTI

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