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Netanyahu and Italian counterpart praise bilateral relations

ROME (JTA) – On the eve of a meeting in Rome with John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would speak “at great length” with the U.S. secretary of state of his concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons potential.

Syria also will be on the agenda of Wednesday’s meeting, whose main topic is the current Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

In a joint appearance Tuesday night with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta following their meeting, Netanyahu said Iran had to be made to dismantle its centrifuges and its plutonium enrichment program. The quest for peace in the Middle East, he said, could be “overwhelmed” if Iran succeeded in obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

Standing side by side and calling each other “Enrico” and “Bibi,” Netanyahu and Letta both praised the state of bilateral relations between Italy and Israel.

Relations between the two states, Netanyahu said, are “strong, friendly and intensifying in every field. We are cooperating as never before.”

Letta said Israel and Italy shared “the same engagement in stabilizing the Mediterranean and Middle East,” with “the Middle East peace process one of the most important issues, goals and achievements.”

Netanyahu’s office had announced last week that during his visit to Rome he also would meet with Pope Francis, but the Vatican on Sunday officially informed the Israeli ambassador  that because of protocol and logistics, such a meeting could not be arranged on such short notice.

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