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Italian Defense Chief Warns of Potential ‘nuclear Blackmail’ by International Terrorist Groups

Italian Defense Minister Giovani Spadolini warned here Tuesday night of the possibility of “nuclear blackmail” by terrorist groups.

Addressing faculty and guests at Tel Aviv University which awarded him an honorary degree, the Italian defense chief called for an international conference to include the two superpowers, the U.S. and USSR, to explore ways to fight international terrorism. The civilized world may not survive into the next century unless terrorism is stopped, he said.

Spadolini contended that nuclear blackmail is a potential threat because simplified nuclear technology is within the grasp of well organized terrorist groups.

“Considering that airplanes and cruise ships are a favorite target of terrorists, modern means of transportation are more dangerous than the roads of the late Middle Ages,” the Italian Minister said.

“Voltaire wrote in 1750 that what differentiates Europe from other continents is that diplomats can be sure of returning safely to their countries at the end of their mission. That is no longer true anywhere in the world,” Spadolini maintained.

The Italian Defense Minister arrived here Monday night after visits to four Arab countries where, he said, he gained the impression that there is a growing interest among moderate Arab leaders in an international conference for peace in the Middle East. Spadolini visited Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia before coming to Israel.

He made a similar statement Wednesday after a 90-minute meeting with six Palestinian leaders — three from the West Bank and three from the Gaza Strip. They met at the Italian Consulate in West Jerusalem.

Spadolini said they had discussed the need for an international conference on Middle East peace with the participation of the major powers and all parties concerned. He said most of the Palestinians favored negotiations for Palestinian autonomy to go hand-in-hand with security for Israel. They stressed the need for the Israeli administered territories to confederate with Jordan.

The Palestinians attending the meeting all stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. They included Rashad A-Shawa, the former Mayor of Gaza, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, of Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, Mustapha Abd A-Nabi Natshe, the former Mayor of Hebron, and Gaza lawyer Fayez Abu-Rahme.

The latter two have been barred by the Israeli authorities from attending an international symposium on Middle East peace at San Diego State University in southern California. The ban has been protested by Israeli and American invitees.

NOT ACTING AS A MEDIATOR

Spadolini, in statements to reporters on his arrival in Israel, stressed that he was not trying to be a mediator between Israel and the Arab states and was carrying no messages to the Israel government from any Arab leaders. He said he gained the impression that the latter are interested in a peace conference from hours of conversation but not from any specific statements.

Spadolini called on President Chaim Herzog Tuesday morning to discuss Middle East problems and bilateral relations between Italy and Israel. He also met with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres who was in Italy recently and with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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