Pakistan is 'a crucial bilateral partner': Italy

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Islamabad, Oct 20: Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has described Pakistan as a 'crucial bilateral partner' and said the two countries aim to work together for stabilisation of a region whose security is conditioned by the conflict under way in Afghanistan and the threats of terrorism and extremism.

Franco Frattini, who is visiting Pakistan, said,'' In order to achieve such a goal, Italy is to intensify relations with Pakistan, to strengthen the already strong bonds of friendship and cooperation that unite our two nations in political, economic and cultural sectors.'' At the same time, he said, ''We believe that an internally stable Pakistan, with sound institutions and an economy on the rebound, is an essential asset to the stability of the region.'' ''We believe that Pakistan is going to have to tap the potential it has, and in which we believe, in order to become a producer of regional security and stability that sets an example of moderation for the Islamic world and makes a positive contribution to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan,'' Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.

Mr Frattini said he would like to offer some concrete indications that how Italy intends to go about confronting Pakistan's internal needs and strengthening its regional role.

He said his country intends to move quickly to implement the conversion of an approximately 80 million Euro bilateral debt, which could be used for projects in sectors and areas ranging from healthcare to education, and that are crucial to Pakistan's internal development.

''We are also working toward expanding the mutually advantageous collaboration between our respective businesses and promoting future collaboration in various sectors of the economy such as energy, the agri-industry, textiles and marble,'' the visiting Foreign Minister said.

As next president of the G8, he said, Italy intends to devote special attention to the regional dimension of the conflict in Afghanistan, by starting now to galvanise neighbouring countries, obviously beginning with Pakistan.

''In particular, we foresee the organisation next year of a regional outreach project involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and other neighbouring nations interested in contributing to regional stability.'' ''We want to ensure that all the regional protagonists fully agree to this involvement. We intend to listen to them and examine together, starting with Pakistan, ideas and proposals that can lead to the sustainable stabilisation of Afghanistan and the region'' he stressed.

UNI

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