Italy backs EU, Sarkozy efforts on Gaza

Italy expressed support Tuesday for French President Nicholas Sarkozy's diplomatic swing through the Middle East to try to end fighting in Gaza, appearing to back off suggestions the mission might weaken European Union efforts toward a cease-fire. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was following developments, including "unfortunately, the not completely satisfactory European mission, especially regarding the request for an immediate cease-fire," the foreign ministry said in a statement. An EU delegation is sounding out leaders in a tour of the Middle East. Separately, Sarkozy has held talks with leaders of Syria and Egypt. Frattini had suggested that separate missions could be counterproductive, telling Italy's Sky TG24 on Monday that "when everyone conducts one's own mission, it weakens our strategic position." But the Italian Foreign Ministry said in its statement Tuesday that "Italy supports with conviction the initiative of the European (Union) troika and all diplomatic efforts under way, including the initiative of French President Sarkozy, who is in the region in these very hours."