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UN Chief in Italy for Talks with Italian Leaders


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met Wednesday with Italian political leaders for talks on crises around the world. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met first with Italian head of state Giorgio Napolitano and then with Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema. In talks with the foreign minister, Ban discussed the situation in Lebanon, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, and Kosovo. They also discussed United Nations reform, and Ban said he welcomes Italy's proposal to seek a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

At a news conference following their talks, d'Alema expressed concern over the political stalemate in Lebanon. He said that such issues as the disarming of militias and border controls to eliminate arms trafficking are still unresolved.

D'Alema said Lebanese political forces must be encouraged to agree on the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The two men agreed on the need to encourage peace efforts in the Middle East following the establishment of a Palestinian unity government.

Regarding Afghanistan, Ban and d'Alema said economic, civilian and political efforts should back up military action currently under way in the country.

D'Alema also said Italy expects the U.N. secretary general to take part in the international conference on the rule of law in Afghanistan, scheduled for early July in Rome.

Turning to Africa, d'Alema said they discussed the situation in Sudan and Somalia.

The Italian foreign minister said Sudan appears prepared to accept 3,000 U.N. soldiers to bolster African Union forces already deployed there. D'Alema added that Italy is prepared to send soldiers to Darfur within reasonable limits.

The U.N. secretary general spoke of the need to make the United Nations more efficient. He said that some agencies of the U.N. are overlapping, wasting limited resources.

"At this time it is very important for the United Nations to utilize these limited resources which come from member states in a more coordinated and consolidated and integrated way so that we can deliver more and deliver as one United Nations," he said.

Later on Wednesday, Ban will meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

On Thursday, Ban will visit in the port of Brindisi. The U.N. base in the city is used as a logistics center for the world organization. Brindisi also will become the headquarters of the new permanent police force being set up to intervene in armed conflicts in developing countries.