Iran, Italy want to develop relations
Iran and Italy, though they are very "different societies", can agree on a "minimal common basis" for their concept of freedom, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said late Saturday, February 24, in Tehran.
"Even two different societies can have a minimal common basis" on the idea of freedom," said the Italian premier, who was on an official visit to Tehran. Amato spoke at a news conference just before leaving the country, and said he agreed with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that "there were different possible approaches to freedom."
However, he said that it was in his opinion inconceivable to "sentence to death in the name of God," as can be the case under the Islamic Republic's regime. For his part, Khatami said the "Iranian people yearned for independence, democracy and freedom."
Amato said Iran's political future was discussed during the meeting, but added that Khatami did not say whether he would run for a second term in the June presidential election.
Earlier Saturday, both leaders said that their two countries wanted to develop bilateral relations, television reported.
During his meeting with Amato, Khatami said, "Iran shakes hands with countries which want to develop bilateral relations with Tehran on a basis of mutual respect." Khatami stressed the "political stability" of the Islamic republic and said "Iran's potential was a great opportunity for any cooperation."
For his part, Amato said his country was "ready to develop cooperation with Iran," the television report said, without providing details on the issues discussed during the meeting.
Amato held talks with Iranian Vice President Hassan Habibi earlier Saturday. During their meeting, Habibi called for a broader cooperation of Italian firms with Iran's small businesses, television said.
Amato was greeted on his arrival Saturday by Iranian Industry Minister Ishagh Jahanghiri, who is also chairman of the Iranian-Italian economic commission.
According to official Italian sources, the visit was to be of an exclusively political nature, following on the heels of visits by Italy's Industry Minister Enrico Letta earlier this week and of its interior minister, Enzo Bianco, in January.
Italy is Iran's leading western European trading partner, with commerce between the two countries estimated at around 2.5 billion dollars. Italy has bolstered ties with Tehran since Khatami visited Rome in March 1999. — (AFP, Tehran)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)