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Barrett808 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 04:06 PM
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Berlusconi, Iran Foreign Minister Meet
ROME - Premier Silvio Berlusconi told Iran's foreign minister Sunday that the Islamic government can play a "positive role" stabilizing Iraq, while Italian leaders worked behind the scenes to free three hostages held by Iraqi insurgents.

It wasn't known whether Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi discussed the Italian hostages or a possible role Iran could play in freeing them. Berlusconi's special diplomatic envoy, Gianni Castellaneta, returned from Iran and Syria as part of the efforts for the hostages and was seen entering the premier's office earlier Sunday.

The Italian news agency AGI said the premier's office was wary of saying anything about efforts to free the hostages, kidnapped April 12. A fourth man captured with the others was executed last week, the only hostage known to have been slain in a string of kidnappings in Iraq.

Italy and Iran have long had good relations. Iran, run by Shiite Muslims, has enormous influence with Iraq's Shiite majority, and Shiite militias in Iraq are believed responsible for many of the kidnappings.

The militants who seized the hostages have demanded Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq. Berlusconi has refused.

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