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Italian, Israeli Leaders Discuss Iran, Palestinian State


The situation in Iran and the prospects for a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one dominated talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Netanyahu was in Rome at the start of a European tour that will also take him to France.

Mr. Netanyahu said the greatest threat to peace is the kind of aggressive and violent behavior that he said was coming from Iran. He praised the reaction of the Iranian population following the recent presidential elections. "I believe that the courage shown by the people of Iran in facing bullets in the streets for the sake of freedom is something that deserves the salute of free men and women everywhere," he said.

The Israeli prime minister was speaking at the two leader's meeting. "Iran is not only supporting its terrorist proxies that oppose peace, Hezbollah and Hamas, it's repressing its own people," he added.

The Israeli premier has said that decisive action is needed to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear potential. Mr. Berlusconi agreed that such a regime should not be allowed to develop this capability.

The head of the Italian government also spoke of the privileged trade ties Rome has with Tehran and said Italy was prepared to review its economic relations. Italy is Iran's biggest trading partner in the West.

Mr. Berlusconi said the current level of economic relations with Tehran would only be maintained if they were viewed as something positive on the international level. He added that a review would take place with the explicit participation of the U.S. administration.

Speaking also of the future of the Middle East, Mr. Netanyahu outlined what he called "the winning formula for peace". "A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state of Israel," he said. The Italian prime minister approved this vision.

Mr. Berlusconi said the two leaders discussed the current situation in the Middle East and Italy confirmed its support for a renewal of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Israeli premier also said he was 100 percent behind Mr. Berlusconi's proposed Marshall Plan for the Palestinian territories. This involves boosting infrastructure and businesses to revive the Palestinian economy as well as increasing tourism to the Holy Land.

Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Paris on Wednesday were he will meet with President Nicholas Sarkozy.

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