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Sudan Foreign Minister to Discuss Bilateral Ties in Italy

The Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail travels Thursday to Italy for a two-day trip aimed at strengthening bilateral and trade ties. He will meet top Italian officials and hold talks on prospects opened by the recent peace agreement between the government and rebels in the south.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail will be making his first trip to Italy since he was appointed seven years ago. The Sudanese minister will hold talks Friday with parliamentarians before getting together with his Italian counterpart Gianfranco Fini.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Mr. Fini will express the Italian government's satisfaction about the January 9 agreement signed in Nairobi between the Sudanese government and the rebels. But he added that Italy, like other European countries, remains concerned about the situation in Darfur.

The United Nations released a report on Monday saying crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed in Darfur. Sudan's ambassador to Rome, Ahmed Rabie Hassan, says his government does not agree with the results of that report.

"It did not mention genocide, that is one positive aspect of it, but again it talks about widely spread killings and things like that," said Ahmed Rabie Hassan. "It is based on reports and interviews and we have seen that reports or interviews have been consistently exaggerated."

The U.N. report recommended the Security Council refer cases to the International Criminal Court for trial, a proposal a number of European countries support. The ambassador said the Sudanese foreign minister's trip to Italy is part of a series of visits to European countries aimed at strengthening bilateral and trade relations. Sudan would like to see Western donors and investors assist in rebuilding war-ravaged areas.

"Sudan is also expecting Italy, together with some other countries, to take part in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Sudan, mainly south, southern Sudan and the areas affected by war," he said.

The Sudanese foreign minister will also address regional issues during his talks in Rome. He is expected to discuss the process of reconciliation in Somalia and the peace negotiations between Ethiopia and Eritrea.