- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

PRISONERS WELCOMED

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini offered Italy’s help in resettling some terrorist suspects held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but doubted that his government could keep them locked up.

On a visit to Washington last week, he told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of Italy’s offer and explained to reporters that Italy has a precedent for accepting suspected terrorists from other nations. He noted that Italy admitted Palestinian suspects but could not incarcerate them because they had committed no crimes against Italy. Guantanamo inmates would fall into a similar category.

Instead, Italy essentially confined the Palestinians to the country, with visas that allowed them to travel within Italy but not leave its borders. Italy also assigned authorities to monitor their movements, he said.

“We can control them,” he said at a news conference at the Italian Embassy, referring to the Guantanamo prisoners. “They would be free to move but with permits limited to one state [Italy].”

Mr. Frattini also noted that the terrorist suspects from Guantanamo would not be eligible for refugee status.

“They are not properly refugees in legal terms,” he said. “They cannot be held in Guantanamo, but they certainly cannot be freed.”

He added that Italy offered to “help the [Obama] administration in closing Guantanamo” because of Italy’s “historical relationship” with the United States.

In addition to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Frattini held talks with National Security Adviser James L. Jones; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat; Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; and Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe.

He said Italy’s conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shares the same foreign-policy goals as the liberal President Obama.

“The Italian government is more than happy to note that on all topics under discussion, there is really, really a convergence. We are on the same line,” he said.

Mr. Frattini added that he was impressed by Mr. Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress.

“I liked it very much. He presented a vision toward the future, an ambitious one,” Mr. Frattini said.

EURO TALKS

The foreign-affairs commissioner of the European Union also found wide agreement with the United States in talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner discussed issues including restarting Arab-Israeli peace talks, reconstructing the Gaza Strip, fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan and dealing with the financial crisis that is hitting Eastern Europe particularly hard.

“This meeting provided an excellent basis for future cooperation,” Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner said before leaving Washington.

“We agreed to work together in the Middle East peace process and discussed the need for a sustainable cease-fire and opening of Gaza for humanitarian assistance. We share a view that the situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan must be a priority for the months to come … Both of us are deeply concerned about the impact of the financial crisis in some parts of Europe’s Eastern neighbors and, in particular, in Ukraine.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.


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