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PRESS CONFERENCE BY ITALIAN MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

26 September 2001

Renato Ruggiero, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon that he had spoken with the Secretary-General today about organizing an international coalition to fight international terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations. Leaders of European Union nations, meeting in Brussels last week, were in agreement that such a coalition should fall under the auspices of the United Nations, he said.

Mr. Ruggiero also warned that the answer to international terrorism did not solely lay with military action. "We need to have other measures that have at least equal importance", he said, mentioning political, economic, intelligence and financial measures.

New international rules were needed that would be shared by the entire world community, with mechanisms that guaranteed that the agreements were binding, Mr. Ruggiero said. The Security Council was considering a draft resolution that called for binding commitments. Further, he said, great attention would also be given to the signature and ratification of the 12 United Nations treaties that address terrorism, especially the twelfth convention that dealt with its financing.

It was possible to reach consensus within the United Nations, he said. It won't be easy, "but its worth a try," because it was important for the entire world community to operate under the same rules regarding terrorism.

Asked if the European Union had sanctioned a military response by the United States, Mr. Ruggiero said that the European Union considered the Security Council's resolution of 12 September as authorizing a military operation. He stressed again, however, that military action was not the only strategy needed to combat international terrorism.

Asked further about military intervention, Mr. Ruggiero said targeted attacks were expected. "This will not be like D-Day", he added.

Another correspondent said that in the past, European governments had shown tolerance for militant and extremist groups. Would that now change? Mr. Ruggiero said he did not feel that governments had been tolerant of such groups. Italians knew, because of their history, how important it was to fight against extremist behavior.

Since Italy had suffered so much from terrorism, he continued, it was willing to fully contribute to the battle against international terrorism. Just yesterday, he told United States authorities that Italy was ready to participate in all actions that would be taken by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Asked about his planned trip to Iran, Mr. Ruggiero said the trip had actually been planned before the 11 September attacks and the scope of the visit would not likely change. Italy shared a traditional relationship with Iran. They also shared the belief that it was important to "join forces and beat something that all of us consider a danger".

Asked about Afghani refugees, he said that the countries of the European Union were committed to helping them, as was the United States, which was the top donor to the people of Afghanistan.

In response to another question, he said he found the Bush administration had demonstrated a "remarkable sense of restraint" in the first two weeks after the attack. The authorities in Washington, D.C. were talking with friends and allies, as well as countries that were not necessarily friends or allies, because they believed that a comprehensive international strategy was at least as important as a military strike.

A correspondent asked for a response to the report that, according to Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, terrorists had planned to assassinate President Bush and other world leaders during the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy last summer. Mr. Ruggiero said he was in Washington, D.C. when that story broke, and did not know much about it. Italian intelligence did know that an air attack was possible during the Summit, which prompted the Italian Government to close the airspace of Genoa.

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