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 US ally.

   

"I said it before the kidnapping and I repeat it today," she told Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview published on 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 29, were freed on Tuesday, three weeks after being snatched from their Baghdad office.

 

Desire to return

 

Berlusconi has brushed aside widespread reports that his government paid a ransom of up to $1 million.

   

"The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping
of civilians"

Simona Torretta, freed Italian aid worker

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 US-led invasion, said she wanted to return despite her ordeal - but would not do so as long as US troops were there: "I've got to wait until the end of the US occupation," she said.

   

She said she did not know whether Italy bought her freedom from the captors: "If a ransom was paid, then I am very sorry. But I know nothing about it. I believe that [the captors] were a very political, religious group and that in the end they were convinced that we were not enemies."