ROME - An Italian aid worker held hostage last month in Iraq said guerrillas there were right to fight U.S.-led forces and their Iraqi "puppet government."
In comments that were bound to annoy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, Simona Torretta also called on Rome to withdraw the troops it sent to Iraq to support its U.S. ally.
"I said it before the kidnapping and I repeat it today," she told Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview published Friday.
"You have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians."
Torretta and her Italian colleague Simona Pari, both of them 29, were freed Tuesday, three weeks after being snatched from their Baghdad office. Berlusconi has brushed aside widespread reports that his government paid a ransom of up to $1 million.
Describing the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as "a puppet government in the hands of the Americans," Torretta said elections planned for January would have no legitimacy: "During my days in detention ... I came to the conclusion it will take decades to put Iraq back on its feet."
Torretta, who lived in Iraq before, during and after the U.S.-led invasion, said she wanted to return despite her ordeal -- but would not do so as long as U.S. troops were there: "I've got to wait until the end of the U.S. occupation," she said.
She said she did know whether Italy bought her freedom from the kidnappers: "If a ransom was paid then I am very sorry. But I know nothing about it ... I believe that (the kidnappers) were a very political, religious group and that in the end they were convinced that we were not enemies."
© 2004 Reuters Ltd