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Italian Leader Greets PLO Official, Backs Separate State for Palestinians

Italy’s President Francesco Cossiga expressed strong support for a Palestinian state at a diplomatic reception here and urged that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not be relegated to the sidelines because of the possibility of war with Iraq.

He said failure to resolve the conflict “is a source of serious instability” in the region.

The Italian chief of state, a Christian Democrat, spoke last Friday at his annual New Year’s meeting with the foreign diplomatic corps. His remarks were consistent with the strong sympathy Italian governments have shown for the Palestinian cause.

Cossiga expressed his support for Palestinian statehood in his greeting to Nemer Hammad, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative in Rome.

“I hope that you may be able to recompose your nation in an independent state with secure borders and that your people will no longer be oppressed and anguished by sorrows I have been a personal witness to and which I have followed with friendship for so many years,” the Italian president said.

Cossiga also touched on the Palestinian issue in his address to the gathering.

“The absence of progress in the search for a solution is a source of serious instability and of a mounting accumulation of highly destructive arms,” he said.

“Our concern is further aggravated by the daily suffering of the people of the occupied territories, made more acute in these three years of intifada,” he said.

“Our sensitivity for these sufferings and the consciousness of the necessity of a negotiated settlement, that safeguards the rights of nationalities and the security needs of both the Palestinian people and of Israel, are not pushed to the background even in this moment, when the danger of a terrible military conflagration looms in the Middle East,” he said.

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