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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Iran: Italy Must Rely on Tehran To Boost Role in Middle East, Diplomat

Rome, 10 August (AKI) - Italy will have to rely on its relationship with Iran to play a role in the Middle East, says Abolfazl Zohrevand, Tehran's new ambassador to Rome.

In an interview to Tehran's radical Kayhan paper, the ambassador said that "Italy, as one of the eight major world powers, is looking for a more relevant role in the Middle East - a role it won't be able to play if it doesn't exploit its relations with Iran."

Ambassador Zohrevand also called for "stronger support to the Islamic Republic from the new government" of centre-left premier Romano Prodi, which was sworn in in May. The diplomat said such support was likely given that, "contrary to (the previous conservative prime minister Silvio) Berlusconi, Prodi doesn't pursue the objective of helping US interests in the region."

Zohrevand said top on his agenda as the Iranian ambassador in Rome was to "create the conditions enabling the Islamic Republic to make the most of Italy's presence within the European Union, the board of governors of the IAEA (the UN atomic watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency) and international institutions."

Italy is Iran's main trading partner in Europe and commercial relations between the two countries were reportedly worth five billion euros in 2005.
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