Italy: Politicians plan pro-Israel rally

Representatives of right and left to protest Thursday near Iranian Embassy.

Politicians from Italy's left and right have said they will attend a rally in front of the Iranian embassy on Thursday to protest remarks by the Iranian president that Israel should be "wiped off the map." Il Foglio, a niche conservative newspaper close to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, called for the protest over the weekend, saying Italians should demonstrate "to defend the right of Israel to exist." But in a sign that the protest had sparked divisions in the left, the Greens party said Monday that it was organizing its own sit-in in front of the embassy a day earlier, on Wednesday. The protest would not only affirm the right of Israel to exist but will also "affirm the need for a full application of UN resolutions recognizing a Palestinian state and the rights of the Palestinian people," said a statement from Greens lawmakers carried by the ANSA and Apcom news agencies. In a front-page article Saturday, Il Foglio said 125 prominent Italians, including Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini - both allies of the center-right Berlusconi - as well as center-left opposition politician Francesco Rutelli and Radical leader Marco Pannella, had backed the Thursday protest. Another opposition lawmaker, Piero Fassino, also said he would attend. The center-left's main leader, Romano Prodi, hasn't decided whether to attend because of prior engagements, spokesman Rodolfo Brancoli said Monday. But a veteran Italian communist leader, Fausto Bertinotti, had indicated he would only participate in Thursday's demonstration if a separate demonstration guaranteeing a Palestinian state were also organized. "I believe that defending the Israeli state is right, but at the same time, one cannot ever forget the need, also just, for the establishment of a Palestinian state," Bertinotti said.