Ahmadinejad approaches Italy on Middle East

Italian leaders welcome Iran's wish to participate in Middle East dialogue.

prodi 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
prodi 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said in a letter to Italian Premier Romano Prodi that his country is ready to consult with Italy on Middle East issues, the premier's office said Friday. The letter, delivered to Prodi by an Iranian diplomat, comes a day after France, Italy and Spain presented a Middle East peace initiative, asserting that Europe must step forward to try to end years of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.
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In talks with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Saeed Jalili, Prodi and Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema welcomed Iran's wish to participate in Middle East dialogue. But the Italian officials warned that Iran must take a positive role and use its influence to help stabilize the region, the premier's office said. Officials at the premier's office declined to give further details on the letter. D'Alema said during a news conference later Friday that Iran's desire for dialogue was positive, but would have to be "measured against the facts." During the meeting with Jalili, the Italian officials asked that Iran comply with the international community's requests on Teheran's contentious nuclear program and criticized Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to destroy Israel, he said. Such behavior "does not seem coherent with this affirmed readiness to contribute to the region's pacification," D'Alema was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies ANSA and Apcom. Italy has traditionally had good relations with Iran and is Teheran's leading trading partner in the European Union. Prodi met with Ahmadinejad in September on the sidelines of a UN meeting. Some Western leaders have been leaning more on Iran to participate in peacemaking in the Middle East while continuing to pressure Teheran over its nuclear program and its backing of Palestinian terrorists and Lebanon-based Hizbullah. On Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the international community to engage Iran and Syria to advance the peace process in the Middle East and Iraq.