US Vice President Praises Italy as ‘Important’ US Ally

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 6:55 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has praised Italy as an important ally and partner of the United States during talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome.

Mr. Biden met with President Napolitano Wednesday to discuss the situation in North Africa and the Middle East, including the conflict in Libya.

At a joint news conference after the talks, Vice President Biden thanked Italy for its military support in Iraq and Afghanistan and for its generosity in helping develop schools, hospitals and other institutions in Afghanistan.

President Napolitano said that a celebration of Italy's unification without the participation of the United States would be unthinkable. He also expressed Rome's support for the allied operation in Libya.

Both the United States and Italy have participated in two months of NATO airstrikes on Libyan military targets to help protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Vice President Biden is visiting the Italian capital to represent the United States at Italy's celebration of the 150th anniversary of its unification Thursday. He is expected to have a trilateral meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the sidelines of the event.

Mr. Biden also held talks in Rome with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, telling the Georgian leader that the U.S. supports Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization. Georgia is a WTO member and has the right to veto any new entrant.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since they fought a five-day war in 2008 for control and influence over the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.