Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Italy: Jewish groups protest against Iranian president

Rome, 3 June (AKI) - Members of Rome's Jewish community on Tuesday protested against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is visiting the Italian capital for the United Nations' global food summit. The protestors carried banners, saying "Democratic Italy rejects Ahmadinejad the tyrant", near Rome's historic centre and near the Vatican. "For a democratic Iran, we reject terrorist dictator Ahmadinejad. Leave Rome," said another banner.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, and before leaving Tehran on Monday, he said Israel would soon "disappear from the geographical scene." He is among world leaders including the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, at the FAO's international summit on food security, climate change and energy which began in Rome on Tuesday.Ahmadinejad was expected give a one hour and a half media conference at the FAO late on Tuesday. Brazilian president Inacio Lula da Silva and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were also expected to address the media before him.Last Saturday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israel's Foreign Ministry was launching a public relations campaign against Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations summit.According to the report, the ministry created a special budget for the campaign to be organised by the Israeli embassy in Rome and local Italian-Jewish organisations. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini are not expected to meet the hardline Iranian leader.

Before Ahmadinejad's arrival, Tehran gave the Iranian Embassy to the Holy See, instructions to ask "repeatedly" for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. It is not known whether he will meet the pontiff, or if he will meet the Vatican's Foreign Minister Tarcisio Bertone.


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