Italian FM denounces Holocaust denial

Napolitano tells 'Post' int'l community committed to peaceful solution to Iranian nuclear standoff.

peres Napolitano  248 88 (photo credit: Amos ben Gershom/GPO)
peres Napolitano 248 88
(photo credit: Amos ben Gershom/GPO)
Without specifically mentioning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visiting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday denounced all those who deny the Holocaust and seek to destroy Israel. Napolitano made the remarks at a welcome reception hosted in his honor by President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi. However, at a news conference the two presidents held after a unusually long working session, Napolitano had no choice but to relate to Iran directly, because, with one exception, all the questions put to him by journalists focused on that topic. When The Jerusalem Post, noting Italy's exceedingly strong economic ties with Iran, asked whether in view of this Italy could act as some sort of mediator to dissuade Iran from going ahead with its nuclear program, Napolitano said that Italy was acting in accordance with UN sanctions and that over the past year it had reduced trade with Iran by 22 percent. "We are doing all that we can," he said, adding, "We are trying to find a peaceful solution to the problem with Iran. The international community is committed to preventing Iran from achieving nuclear power." If the international community decided to intensify the sanctions, Italy would fall in line with whatever decisions were taken, said Napolitano. He evaded the question of another reporter who couldn't understand why Italy continued to maintain relations with a country whose leader constantly talked about Israel's annihilation and who denies the Holocaust. When asked whether Italy and the rest of the international community was doing enough to derail the Iranian nuclear program, he conceded that more could be done - but not to the extent of waging war. There was consensus in the international community, he said, that using force to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions was not an option. Peres warned that wars were problems in themselves and didn't necessarily solve other problems. He called Ahmadinejad "irresponsible, capricious and dangerous," so much so that Arab leaders were afraid of what may happen in their own states in the face of Iranian ambitions to control the whole of the Middle East. The readiness of the Arab world to bring an end to the conflict was important, he said, adding that many Arab states had come to the conclusion that Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran were not an alternative for them. "It's a danger to their way of life. Iran is the only imperialist force in the name of religion," he said. Therefore, he continued, he welcomed the Saudi initiative and claimed that there was growing support for it in Israel. "If Syria is ready to make peace, we are ready too," he added. Peres, who accompanied Napolitano on a visit to Yad Vashem and later to the Van Leer Institute to attend the Israeli-Italian Writers Conference, after which he hosted him at a state dinner, will spend more time with Napolitano than with any other visiting head of state. The two are scheduled to attend a concert in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening and to address an economic seminar in Tel Aviv on Thursday.