We’ll make Mediterranean cleanest sea in the world: Berlusconi

June 5th, 2008 - 12:57 am ICT by IANS  

Rome, June 4 (DPA) Italy and Egypt will work together to clear the Mediterranean of pollution and make it the “cleanest sea in the world”, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday. The Italian premier made the pledge at a joint news conference with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, after the two leaders held talks in Rome.

Berlusconi who was elected prime minister for a third time in April, jokingly said he would “go to school” to learn from Mubarak how to stay in power for “30 years”.

In fact, the Egyptian leader who was first elected president in 1981, had been in office for 27 years.

On a more serious note, Berlusconi said there was a need to “relaunch cultural, economic and political ties across the Mediterranean”.

Mubarak, together with Egypt’s foreign, agriculture and culture ministers attended a bilateral summit at which a “strategic partnership” with Italy was signed.

Italy is Egypt’s largest trading partner and Italians make up the majority of tourists visiting the North African country.

The Italian premier also said he welcomed Mubarak’s nomination as deputy-president of the Union of the Mediterranean, the new grouping of 27 European Union countries and their southern neighbours scheduled to be launched in Paris in July.

Besides bilateral issues, discussions Wednesday focused on Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and the conflict in Darfur, Mubarak said.

The Egyptian leader reiterated his belief that Israel’s continued expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories “was very serious and continues to hamper the peace process”.

During the news conference, Berlusconi said a remark attributed to him on on Tuesday, following a meeting with French president Nicholas Sarkozy, when he appeared to backtrack on criminalising the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in Italy was only “a personal opinion”.

Instead Berluconi confirmed that an Italian government proposal to make illegal immigration a crime would be presented before parliament for debate.

Berlusconi also said his government which includes the xenophobic Northern League was preparing a series of “interventions and assistance” to help the repatriation of illegal African immigrants.

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