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Italian defense minister meets U.S. Army Gen. Petraeus in Milan

Italian Minister of Defense Ignazio La Russa (R) and the current commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus give a joint press conference following their meeting on October 16, 2010 in Milan. Petraeus will take part in Rome on October 18 in a meeting of the International Contact Group that will bring together top diplomats to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, including 10 representatives of Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states. (Photo : OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

October 18, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PEOPLE’S DAILY ONLINE) — Italian Minister of Defense Ignazio La Russa met Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, U.S. General David H. Petraeus, in Milan on Saturday, local media reported on Sunday.

During the meeting held in the command of the First Air Region, La Russa confirmed the Italian government’s commitment to follow up ISAF’s strategy.

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the meeting, La Russa said that he didn’t talk with Petraeus about exit strategies or dates, as thinking of an exit strategy “means to advantage terrorists.”

“I prefer to talk about goals instead,” he said, adding that Italy’s goal is to return the Afghan territory to local government and army, so that they themselves can continue in counter-terrorist action and start a phase of normalization.

Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, smiles upon his arrival to attend a meeting with Italian Defense Minister Igniazio La Russa in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Getty Images /AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

In La Russa’s view, 2011 may be a decisive year, because the reconstruction plan in the west part of Afghanistan is continuing.

“I think that before the end of 2011 several districts of the West will be delivered. Herat, for example, is already an area that could be ready,” he said.

The number of Italian soldiers, he added, is to rise to 4,000 by the end of 2010, and there is the possibility for an additional increase of trainers in the first months of 2011.

La Russa said that he hasn’t discuss with the ISAF commander about weaponry of Italian airplanes, an issue that the Italian minister has raised in the past days after the killing of four Italian soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We both know the situation. NATO and ISAF expect, hope indeed, all crafts to have a complete armament, and this issue will be handled in Lisbon,” he pointed out.

During their meeting, La Russia and Petraeus also talked about the NATO-supported negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban.

“We support this initiative because we know that the reconciliation is fundamental, but Taliban must meet the conditions that Karzai has put clearly: lay down arms, stop the violence, cut ties with al-Qaeda, walk away from international terrorism and accept the Afghan constitution,” he said.

On Monday, Petraeus will be in Rome for a meeting with Italy’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Source: Xinhua