The last of Italy's volunteers working for small non-govenmental organisations in Iraq have left the coutnry. Their withdrawal comes after the kidnapping of two Italian women on 7 September.

Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who are still being held hostage, work for the Rome-based NGO, "Un Ponte per" which was founded in Italy in 1991 to oppose the embargo imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war. It then extended its operations to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, into Turkish Kurdistan and in 1999 it also worked to distribute medical supplies to refugees from Kosovo. "Un Ponte per" has about 500 volunteers and has offices in five Italian cities: Rome, Milan, Naples, Trento and Udine.

it is thought that the 25 Italians working for the Red Cross will remain in Iraq until the end of this year.