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ITALY: MEDITERRANEAN A "BRIDGE" TO THE MIDDLE EAST, SAYS MINISTER

Aki - April 10, 2008 Italy should use the Mediterranean as an important "bridge" to improve relations in the Middle East, in particular Egypt, said the minister for international trade, Emma Bonino, on Thursday. Bonino was visiting the Rome headquarters of the GMC-Adnkronos Media Group as part of the company's "Election Special" coverage ahead of the Italian election on 13-14 April. Bonino spoke to Adnkronos International (AKI) on her return from a business and investment delegation's visit to Egypt this week. She said Italy needed to be more outward-looking. "We are a country that has a tendency to be inward-looking," she said. "We don't have a sense that we are a part of a world family." Bonino accompanied Italian prime minister Romano Prodi and 250 Italian business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities in Egypt. "The Mediterranean Sea is not something to divide us but as a lake that unites us. Yesterday's meeting in Egypt was important for economic relations but the most important issue is the food crisis." While Bonino recognised Italians were hard hit by rising oil prices, with prices close to 112 dollars a barrel on Thursday, she said it was devastating for poor countries. "Imagine what it means in fragile countries like Egypt, Nigeria and the Philippines," she told AKI. Bonino said she and Prodi had discussed the current food crisis with Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Nazaf who had told them that much of the country's recent growth was being absorbed by government food subsidies. She said the role of media organisations such as Adnkronos was crucial for sharing information and building better relations with Italy's neighbors in the Middle East. "I think the role (of AKI) is important to this country which has a tendency to be provincial," Bonino said.





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