Israel PM, ministers head to Italy to gather support againt Palestinian state

AFP , Sunday 12 Jun 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Italy to urge its leadership to oppose recognition of a Palestinian state in September's UN General Assembly meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and nine of his ministers left for Italy on Sunday for two days of meetings with their Italian counterparts, Israeli officials said.

The delegation will take part in a joint meeting of the two governments and Netanyahu will also meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Speaking to Israeli public radio, Israel's ambassador in Rome Gideon Meir said at least nine bilateral agreements would be signed during the visit.

But the main thrust of the visit was expected to be Netanyahu's efforts to get world leaders to oppose a Palestinian plan to seek United Nations recognition and membership in September.

Berlusconi, along with the German and American leaders, has already voiced his opposition to the plan.

Rome was "opposed to the principle of UN recognition in September of a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before June 1967," Meir said.

Nevertheless, Israel's Ynet website, quoting a senior Israeli official, said Israel was pressuring Berlusconi to issue a joint statement with Netanyahu again stating his opposition to the plan.

An official told AFP that "Netanyahu will hold talks with his counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, which will address recent changes in the Middle East and the peace process," but did not elaborate.

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