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Italian Foreign Minister Expresses Support for Israel in Anti-Terrorism Fight - 2003-11-19

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Europe supports Israel in the fight against terrorism and anti-semitism. He spoke after meeting in Rome with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed concern about Europe's negative attitude toward his country in a meeting that lasted more than an hour. The Israeli leader arrived in Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of this year.

In a recent opinion poll, EU citizens put Israel at the top of a list of countries considered a "threat to world peace."

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini reassured Mr. Sharon that there are a number of issues on which Europe feels very close to Israel. These include the fight against anti-semitism and terrorism and the need for Israel to be able to guarantee the security of its citizens.

Mr. Frattini said a change of attitude is needed in Europe, not only toward Israel but more generally toward all Jews in Europe. He said that a strong reaction is required against every form of anti-Semitism. He added that not only anti-semitism, but also terrorism must be combated because terrorism is the world's greatest threat for democracy.

Mr. Sharon thanked Italy for its support, describing it as Israel's best friend in Europe. Since taking on the EU presidency in July, Rome has tried to build warmer relations between Israel and the European Union.

The European Union has often criticized Israeli policies in the occupied territories. It has also urged Israel to stop and reverse the construction of its so-called security fence inside the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli prime minister, earlier, told the Italians the need for building a provisional barrier is being misunderstood in Europe.