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Italian, German F. Ministers Say EU Must Reach Out to Muslim Countries

The Italian and German governments are in agreement that the European Union must

Italian FM Gianfranco Fini, right, gestures next to his German counterpart Joschka Fischer prior to a joint press conference at Rome's Foreign Ministry Headquarters
move forward in its enlargement process despite the setback suffered by the rejection of the EU constitution by France and Holland. The foreign ministers agreed that negotiating with Turkey and Balkan countries on accession will benefit Europe as it confronts the threat of international terrorism.

Talks between Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini and his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, in Rome Monday lasted over two hours. Mr. Fischer described the talks as "positive, intense and open".

Discussions focused on international issues including the fight against terrorism following the London bomb attacks last week as well as the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East. But maximum priority during the talks was given to Europe.

The foreign ministers of Italy and Germany agreed that efforts must continue to build a united Europe despite the setbacks caused by the rejection of the referendum on the European constitution in France and Holland and the failure to reach an agreement on Europe's financial prospects.

Mr. Fischer said Europe cannot afford to stand by idly.

"As Europe moves ahead towards enlargement and integration, it cannot allow itself a pause in its economic, political and security interests," he said. "We must move forward, and it's essential for us to respect the commitments that we have taken."

The German and Italian foreign ministers also said the European Union must continue negotiating membership with Turkey and Balkan countries because dialogue with Muslims could benefit Europe's fight against terrorism.

Mr. Fini said that on a planned trip to Ankara later this week he would reiterate that for Italy nothing changes regarding its commitment to help in negotiations for Turkey's eventual membership of the union.

"To successfully fight terrorism and extremism," the Italian foreign minister said, "we need to use a policy of dialogue, of understanding with moderate Islam."

The ministers agreed that joint efforts are needed to combat terrorism.

Mr. Fini said Italy, like many other countries, is certainly a potential target of terrorism. He added that over the past years terrorists have struck in many different areas of the world. He said Italy has taken all the necessary measures to prevent and identify any danger stemming from terrorist activities.