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Britain, Italy Agree on Africa Issues for G-8 Summit

Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi
Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain and Italy share common views on the agenda for the summit of leading industrial nations later this year. He says the two countries are in agreement on the way forward for Africa and climate change. Mr. Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held a joint press conference Friday at the end of their talks in Rome.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair described his talks with the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, as "friendly and constructive". He said the two countries agreed on all the key issues and bilateral relations between Italy and the United Kingdom are in strong shape.

"We work together in many different places in the world," Mr. Blair said. "We share many of the same perspectives, both in terms, for example of economic reform in Europe and the importance of it and the importance of the trans-Atlantic alliance with America."

Mr. Blair said he discussed the agenda of the upcoming G-8 summit of leading industrial nations plus Russia in Scotland in July. He said Mr. Berlusconi agreed with him on the way forward both in respect of Africa and climate change. Mr. Blair said the plight of the African continent has been on the G-8 agenda for a long time.

"The purpose of the plan for Africa this year however is to try and put all the different aspects of the problem of Africa, not just that of aid and debt, but also that of governance and conflict, to put all those items together in a comprehensive plan that allows us to help that continent which is the only continent anywhere in the world that has gone backwards in the last 30 years," he said.

The two leaders also discussed issues affecting Europe just as Britain prepares to take on the European Union's six-month rotating presidency and international issues, namely the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Blair said Iraqi democracy has begun and progress is being accomplished particularly in the south of the country. He paid tribute to Italian forces for their courage and commitment which, he said, is deeply valued by the allies.

The British prime minister said that as Iraq is being helped to establish democracy, efforts are also being made to build the capability of its security forces. As that capability grows, he added, the need for foreign troops to do the security work will diminish. The timetable for that, Mr. Blair stressed, is set by the job being done.

"Everybody envisages a time when Iraq is not just a sovereign country and a democratic country but a country capable of looking after its own security with this terrorism and insurgency defeated," he added.

Mr. Blair said it's a very tough struggle to help Iraq towards democracy but it is an important struggle not only for the country, but for the region and the world.