Italian FM Frattini arrives in Israel

Nations set to announce establishment of "strategic dialogue" day after FIAT says it'll produce cars in Iran.

olmert frattini 224 88 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert frattini 224 88
(photo credit: GPO)
Israel and Italy are expected to announce the establishment of a "strategic dialogue" during the visit of Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini that will begin Tuesday, diplomatic officials said on Monday. The officials pointed out that the only other countries Israel has this dialogue with are the US, France and Britain. The officials said that Iran, the negotiations with the Palestinians and the situation in the north will be the major focus of Frattini's talks with Israeli leadership. The officials also said that Israel will be interested in hearing from Italy, Iran's largest trading partner in Europe, what practical steps Rome is taking regarding sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The strategic dialogues are forums where both sides, according to diplomatic officials, share intelligence assessments and chart policy goals in a very open and candid manner. Frattini's visit comes a day after the Fiat Group announced in Milan that it will begin manufacturing its Siena four-door sedan in Iran this fall, more than 3 1/2 years after signing an agreement with the Iranian car manufacturing company PIDF. The launch of the long-delayed project marks Fiat's return to Iran after a 50-year absence. The agreement with the Pars Industrial Development Foundation (PIDF) initially foresees the assembly of 50,000 Siena's a year, with the intention of expanding to 250,000 vehicles a year. According to the announcement, the vehicles are to be assembled at a plant in Saveh, 130 kilometers southwest of Teheran, using components imported from a Tofas factory in Turkey. When asked whether this issue would be raised with Frattini, Israeli officials said they didn't know about the deal, and would look into the matter. Diplomatic officials characterized Frattini as a "friend" of Israel. This is his first visit since Silvio Berlusconi won the Italian elections in April. He also served as foreign minister under Berlusconi's first government. During his visit, Frattini is expected to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad. AP contributed to this report.