(photo credit: )
Following the violent crackdown on protests in Teheran, the Group of Eight leaders meeting next week in central Italy may discuss possible sanctions against Iran, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday.
Berlusconi said the violence against demonstrators protesting what they called election fraud will be at the top of the agenda at the July 8-10 summit with President Barack Obama and other heads of the state from the G-8 industrialized countries.
Asked at a news conference in Naples whether sanctions would be discussed, he said: "I believe we will go in that direction."
Italy is Iran's No. 1 European trading partner, but Rome has been strong in its condemnation of the regime's crackdown, pushing last week's summit of G-8 foreign ministers to deplore Iran's postelection violence.
Italy also has granted a number of visas to protesters who want to escape the crackdown and ordered its Teheran embassy to offer assistance to anyone wounded in the clashes.
The summit of G-8 heads of state was originally planned on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena but was moved to L'Aquila to draw attention to the city that was devastated by an earthquake in April.
Berlusconi outlined the G-8's program aboard the cruise ship that would have hosted world leaders at La Maddalena and was moored in Naples' harbor for the news conference.
He said the summit will focus on the economic crisis and will try to get out a positive message that the worst is over.
"An indication will have to be given that the global crisis has vented most of its strength," Berlusconi said.
"Today there are no situations that can justify a continuation of the crisis," he said. "The main factor is lack of confidence and the fact that we continue to give it attention, call it deep and say it will never end. This brings fear to consumers and pushes them to change their buying habits."
In recent months Berlusconi has repeatedly addressed what he sees as the largely psychological side of the crisis, criticizing the media and international organizations for allegedly fueling the crisis by spreading pessimistic outlooks and negative economic figures.
Such statements have sparked outrage from the opposition, which says the government is underestimating the crisis and not doing enough to combat Italy's worst recession in decades.
Berlusconi said the summit also will look at new rules for global financial markets and at measures to ease the hunger that the downturn has worsened in poor countries.
Other issues to be discussed include global warming and a push for greater liberalization in international trade, he said.