Berlusconi offers Bush help with Iran nuclear issue

June 14, 2008 - 0:0

ROME (USA Today) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday he was more than willing to help President Bush in trying to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear development program.

Berlusconi said he could offer “inside knowledge” in dealing with Iran.
Italy is Iran's No. 1 trading partner in Europe.
“We know Iran very well from the inside,” Berlusconi said during a joint news conference here.
Bush is on a farewell tour of Europe before leaving office next year and is drumming up support for further isolating Iran if it refuses to stop enriching uranium.
Iran insists it is pursuing nuclear capability to produce electricity, not weapons.
Berlusconi said it was important “to make sure nuclear energy is being used only for peaceful reasons.”
His offer, however, raises questions about what role Italy would play because it has so many business ties with Iran.
Bush, the European Union and other European leaders have agreed to impose further financial sanctions on Tehran if Iranian leaders refuse to accept their offer of financial incentives in return for dropping uranium enrichment.
Berlusconi, a conservative, and Bush have had a good relationship that stretches to the president's early days in office. Berlusconi sent 3,000 troops to Iraq, although he later said he had urged Bush against the 2003 invasion.
Berlusconi, who was elected prime minister for his third time in April, rolled out the red carpet for Bush in Rome.
Although anti-American sentiment in Italy is not as strong as in Germany and France, Bush did see protesters here Thursday for the first time on his eight-day trip that began at the first of the week at a U.S.-European Union summit in Slovenia and carried him to Germany before Rome. -