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Italian foreign minister to visit Iran this week: official

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini will head for Tehran this week to bolster the two countries' ties and discuss regional and international issues, a senior Foreign Ministry official said in Rome Wednesday, IRNA reported.

"This visit is very important to Italy and takes place in accordance with an all-out expansion of bilateral ties," the head of the Italian Foreign Ministry's Mediterranean and Middle East section, Ricardo Sessa, told IRNA.

"We believe Iran is an important factor for regional stability and we are interested in exchanging views with Tehran on the Persian Gulf and the Middle East issues," he added.

Italy has turned into the first political and trade partner of Iran among the 15-member European Union bloc in recent years on the back of high profile exchange of visits between officials of the two countries, which have entailed in remarkable blossoming of trade ties.

Trade transaction between Tehran and Rome rose to 2.5 billion euros through January-August 2003, a nine percent growth compared with the figures for the similar period a year before.

Trade balance is pegged in Iran's favor, including 1.3 billion euros of exports and 1.1 billion euros of imports. Oil and its derivatives comprised the bulk of Iran's exports against import of mostly industrial machinery.

Italy also stood high above the rest of its counterparts in the European Union with regard to the growth of the bloc's ties with Tehran in the last three years.

While this growth rate hovered in the range of 39 percent for most of the EU members, Italy came through with flying colors with a remarkable 54 percent.

... Payvand News - 1/14/04 ... --

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