13 May 2004
ROME – José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero travelled to Rome Thursday for talks with Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, one of the biggest European allies of the former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar.
Zapatero went to Italy as part of his tour of Europe to have meetings with all the heads of state.
At a press conference after an hour-long meeting with Berlusconi, the Spanish premier said he wanted to talk about Italy’s support for the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Zapatero had similar talks last week with the Portuguese head of state Durao Barroso, whose country also supports the American-led invasion.
Government sources told EFE news agency that the Zapatero administration is well-aware that Berlusconi’s government had close relations with the government of Aznar.
But at the same time, they do not want to let this get in the way of future relations between Spain and Italy.
They hoped they could maintain the same respect for the difference of policy over Iraq which the Portuguese government expressed.
Zapatero does not think he can export his policy on Iraq of withdrawing troops.
The Spanish premier did not refer to the Italian presence in the Middle-Eastern country, sources said.
The two premiers talked about negotiations over the new European Constitution.
Spain has already put forward the suggestion that two thirds of each country’s populations should make a decision on this matter if it comes to a vote.
Italy was roundly criticised for failing to come to some agreement on this matter when it held the European presidency in 2003.
They will also talk later Thursday about which city should host the new Treaty of Europe celebrations.
Rome is one candidate but Madrid may be chosen as a tribute to the victims of the 11 March terrorist massacre, in which 192 people were killed.
But Madrid will not object if Rome continues to suggest its own candidature as it hosted the first such celebration in 1957.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news