US Vice President Praises Italy as ‘Important’ US Ally

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 7:35 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 a visit to Rome for the 150th anniversary of the country's unification Thursday.

Mr. Biden met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome Wednesday for talks on the situation in North Africa and the Middle East Libya.

At a joint news conference after the talks, Mr. 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 both have participated in two months of NATO airstrikes on Libyan military targets to help protect civilians from attacks the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Vice President Biden 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 with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Rome. He conveyed the U.S. support for 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 the neighboring states 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.