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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ROME3179
2005-09-23 11:22:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Rome
Cable title:  

ITALY: AMBASSADOR'S TOUR D'HORIZON WITH PRODI AND

Tags:   PGOV  MARR  MOPS  EFIN  IZ  IT  IRAQI  FREEDOM  ITALY  NATIONAL  ELECTIONS 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ROME 003179 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2015
TAGS: PGOV MARR MOPS EFIN IZ IT IRAQI FREEDOM ITALY NATIONAL ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: ITALY: AMBASSADOR'S TOUR D'HORIZON WITH PRODI AND
CENTER-LEFT LEADERS

Classified By: Ambassador Ronald Spogli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L ROME 003179

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2015
TAGS: PGOV MARR MOPS EFIN IZ IT IRAQI FREEDOM ITALY NATIONAL ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: ITALY: AMBASSADOR'S TOUR D'HORIZON WITH PRODI AND
CENTER-LEFT LEADERS

Classified By: Ambassador Ronald Spogli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador hosted lunch on September 20
for Center-Left political leaders Romano Prodi, Piero
Fassino, Francesco Rutelli, and Massimo D'Alema. The four
politicians were mostly in sync, willing to contradict each
other politely, and were only moderately deferential to their
presumptive leader, Romano Prodi. Should they win next
year's general elections, their consensus view on Iraq is
that any Italian troop withdrawal would be done in
consultation with the U.S. and based on facts on the ground.
Less forthcoming than the others, Prodi expressed a need to
"respond to the people's request" for early withdrawal. All
four support Italian missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan;
believe Turkey will not enter the EU in the near future;
expressed a need to better integrate Italy's Muslim
community; were firm on the need to fight terrorism; and
welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. END SUMMARY.


2. (C) The Ambassador hosted lunch on September 20 for
Center-Left (CL) leaders from the Union Coalition. The four
guests were presumptive CL Prime Ministerial candidate Romano
Prodi, DS General Secretary Piero Fassino, Former Rome Mayor
and 2001 Center-Left candidate Francesco Rutelli (Daisy), and
DS President and former Prime Minister Massimo D,Alema. The
Ambassador was accompanied by PolOff. The atmosphere was
relaxed and the discussion substantive. The four politicians
were mostly in sync but willing to contradict each other
politely. They were only moderately deferential to their
presumptive leader, Romano Prodi.

--------------
ITALIAN TROOP DEPLOYMENT IN IRAQ
--------------


3. (C) The Ambassador asked the four what the U.S. could
expect from them on Iraq if the CL wins next year's general
election. Prodi responded that his government would
"establish an agenda to withdraw its military from Iraq and

engage the country in reconstruction." Fassino qualified
this by saying the agenda would not necessarily have dates,
and stated that troops would be withdrawn after certain
milestones were met. Both Fassino and D'Alema readily agreed
with the Ambassador that any decision would need to be made
based on "facts on the ground next year." All four
politicians expressed concern about how the Iraqi
constitutional process would play out. D'Alema pointed out
that Iraqi FM Zebari told him in New York last week that the
U.S. would need to begin a troop withdrawal--toward more of a
deterrence force "based outside the cities that is available
when needed." Rutelli preemptively said that Italians had
"learned the lessons from Spain" and would not take "any
unilateral action" on Iraqi troop deployment. Note: At a
speech on September 21, Prodi repeated his comment on Iraqi
troop withdrawal and informed the crowd that he had told this
to the Ambassador at a lunch the day before. End Note.


4. (C) The Ambassador pressed the four CL politicians to
agree that a CL government would make decisions on troop
deployment in Iraq based on "facts on the ground and in
consultation with the U.S." and reminded them that public
speculation on troop withdrawal spurs the insurgency.
D'Alema, Fassino and Rutelli agreed though clearly stating
that some acceleration of troop withdrawal would be required.
Prodi demurred and commented, "we must respond to the
people's request."

-------------- --------------
DEPLOYMENTS IN THE BALKANS, AFGHANISTAN AND THE SUDAN
-------------- --------------


5. (C) The Ambassador praised the Italian commitments in
Afghanistan and the Balkans and asked their view on
deployments there. Prodi said he was "pessimistic" on
Afghanistan and mentioned the lack of rule of law outside
Kabul, Afghanistan's poor resource base for economic
development, and the growing strength of local warlords.
Without giving Prodi a chance to answer the Ambassador's
question, D'Alema said he was also "pessimistic" but that
there is a "qualitative difference between troop deployments"
in Afghanistan and Iraq and that it is "the right thing" for
Italian troops to work with the international community to
rebuild Afghanistan even if the prospects for success are
slim. Rutelli said Italians are "proud" of their military's
involvement in Afghanistan.


6. (C) On Italian troop deployments to the Balkans, the four


politicians were unified in support of continued involvement.
Fassino, D'Alema and Prodi each pointed out that it was a
Center-Left government that initially deployed troops to the
Balkans. Rutelli interjected that Italian troops are
performing an important mission in the Sudan as well.

--------------
TURKEY ENTRANCE INTO THE EU
--------------


7. (C) The Ambassador asked their view on Turkish membrship
in the EU. All agreed that Turkey would not enter the EU in
the foreseeable future. Prodi cited public opposition in
France, Germany, Austria and increasingly in Italy. D'Alema
said French President's Chirac's decision to put all future
expansion decisions to public referenda had effectively ended
any chance for Turkish EU membership. D'Alema also qualified
Prodi's statement by saying that Italy is not a problem and
noting Italy's political institutions favor Turkish
membership. Fassino stressed the importance of
Italian-Turkish commercial relations. However, Fassino also
said that Pope Benedict XVI is against Turkey's joining the
EU and that this would have a significant impact on parts of
the Italian political class. Rutelli noted that the Pope
planned to visit Turkey in 18 months.

--------------
ITALY'S MUSLIM COMMUNITY AND TERRORISM
--------------


8. (C) All four CL politicians responded that recently
enacted anti-terror reforms were neither far-reaching nor
particularly innovative (REF A). Prodi, who has publicly
declared that the Berlusconi government would need to reform
aspects of the law that potentially infringe on personal
liberties, only commented that the CL had actively supported
the legislation. Prodi continued that US-EU cooperation is
essential to fighting international terrorism and underlined
the specific importance of greater cooperation against
terrorist financing.


9. (C) All four politicians admitted that Italy must do a
better job integrating its growing Muslim minority. They
said there are different models that have been tried: the
French have tried forcing their Muslims to become French, and
the British have tried to integrate them into their society.
Prodi rejected the French model and stated the Italians must
find a way to entice Muslims to participate in Italian
society, rejecting the creation of Muslim "social ghettos."
He said immigrants must have a clearer path to Italian
citizenship and strongly criticized the Bossi/Fini
immigration reform (REF A). Referring to recent actions in
Milan to close unauthorized Muslim schools (REF B), they all
agreed that any Muslim schools must be held to regular
Italian education norms and offered Italy's Jewish schools as
a model.


10. (C) All four felt the terrorist threat to Italy comes
from internationally organized terrorist groups, and felt
that integration of Italy's Muslims is one way to combat
these terrorist groups' influence in Italy. Prodi said he
thought the fact that the London bombers were well integrated
into English society was an aberration.


11. (C) D'Alema stated he did not believe that the war in
Iraq had "created more terrorists" but said that it has been
a clarion call within the Muslim community that we cannot
understand. He said the reaction inside the Muslim world has
been something like what would happen in Europe if "Muslims
took over France." He recounted a story from a recent trip
to Libya in which the 18-year-old son of a "very western
official" who had lived for several years in London, left one
night to fight jihad.

--------------
ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL FROM GAZA
--------------


12. (C) Prodi cited the Palestinian conflict with Israel as a
convenient propaganda tool for terrorist groups and said a
solution is necessary to take away that tool. He praised
Israeli PM Sharon's courage for withdrawing from Gaza but
said the U.S. must stay engaged in order to ensure further
progress. Prodi criticized the U.S. for never allowing the
EU to serve as a mediator in the conflict, and became
animated describing some personal conflicts he had with
Sharon. D'Alema said the U.S. should not be blamed for


excluding the EU from the peace process, saying Israel has
always opposed EU participation and that the U.S. could not
move against the powerful Israeli lobby. All agreed that
economic development is urgent in Gaza.


13. (C) COMMENT: The four Center-Left leaders appeared
united in principle on the major issues, but with subtle, yet
important differences in approach and style. On Iraq,
Fassino, D'Alema and Rutelli were clear--They support a
somewhat accelerated Italian troop withdrawal based on facts
on the ground but in close consultation with the U.S. Prodi
seemed less willing to admit that Italian troops might need
to stay in Iraq for an extended period of time. In general,
Prodi seemed the most critical of U.S. positions ("slow down
on Turkey", "U.S. did not include the EU in the Middle East
Peace Process", "pessimistic" on Afghanistan), and more
willing to contradict the other three leaders. Fassino was
the most eager to show that his views were similar to U.S.
positions, and Rutelli seemed the most naturally at ease with
his views vis-a-vis the U.S. D'Alema seemed most like a
senior statesmen.


14. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: Italy's general elections are more
than a half year away, and only 8 points separate the
Center-Left from the Center-Right in the latest polls.
Moreover, should the CL win, we cannot know the dynamics of a
future coalition until we see how much influence Fausto
Bertinotti and his Refounded Communist (RC) Party will wield.
The stronger he is, the more will be the pressure on the
other CL parties for an accelerated Italian troop withdrawal.
We will continue to work with all four of these leaders,
both together and separately, to reinforce how important it
is to maintain dialogue with us on Italian troop deployments,
and that any redeployment be based on facts on the ground and
in consultation with the coalition partners and the
Government of Iraq. END COMMENT.

SPOGLI


NNNN
2005ROME03179 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL