Italian Foreign Minister Looks to Iraq's Future, not Past Divisions
His Excellency Signor Franco Frattini (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy)
J. Sean Curtin (GLOCOM, Fellow and Asia Times)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi have both been steadfast supporters of President George W. Bush's war in Iraq. While the Japanese premier has so far avoided any adverse political fallout from the domestically unpopular war, the Italian leader has not been so fortunate. In recent local and European Union elections, Berlusconi's Forza Italia Party suffered a series of defeats, which were largely attributed to the conflict.
Like British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Berlusconi's popularity has slipped. He has suffered political damage for supporting a war the majority of Italian opposed and for dispatching 3,000 troops to the battlefield. Italy has paid a heavy human cost, with 20 troops dead and one hostage brutally executed. The failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, one of the primary reasons for the conflict, has seriously weakened the justification for the conflict. Despite the political pressure, the Italian government remains unwavering in its support for the war.
Justification for war
Sean Curtin: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi along with Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar and Junichiro Koizumi were strong supporters of President George W. Bush's war in Iraq. It was said that this war was necessary because of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and in the United States it was implied that their might have been an Iraqi connection with the terror attacks of 9/11. However, none of these reasons have turned out to be true. As your country's foreign minister, how do you currently justify Italy's participation in the Iraq conflict?
Franco Frattini: As regards Iraq, first of all, I believe we are building a free and prosperous Iraq, working together with the United Nations. We are also working together with the newly appointed Iraqi government. It would not be useful at all to look at the past. To once again investigate whether it is true or false about [the existence of] weapons of mass destruction. It is not useful at all.
Now, we must look to the future, to the reconstruction of Iraq. We are there [in Iraq]. We are still cooperating on the ground. If we concentrate our attention on past divisions, we risk losing the true perspective that is the perspective of rebuilding a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq. That is why we cannot dwell [on the past]. Now, the current situation is very dangerous, especially regarding security aspects.
We cannot concentrate our attention on investigating the past. Especially not at this very moment when we have been able to overcome the past splits in Europe and were able to restore cohesion within Europe. That is very important because for the first time the European Council agreed on a European declaration regarding the future possibility for getting the EU involved in the political process in Iraq.
So, this is more important than any investigation on the suspected existence of weapons of mass destruction one or two years ago.
The above discussion took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 21 June 2004
Profile: Franco Frattini
Before entering politics, Signor Franco Frattini practiced as a lawyer. Over the years, he has held a number of political posts. He served as Minister for the Civil Service and Regional Affairs (1995-96) in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, and then as a Rome City Councillor (1997-2000). In the May 2001 Italian general election, he was elected a Deputy for the House of Freedom Coalition representing the Veneto. Signor Frattini was appointed to his current post as Minister for Foreign Affairs by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in November 2002.
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