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Secretary of State Colin Powell
Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero
Washington, D.C.
September 25, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure to have had the opportunity to visit with my colleague, Foreign Minister Ruggiero of Italy. He and I have formed a very strong relationship in the few months we have been working together. We talk several times a week on the phone, and it was a pleasure to have an opportunity for a little more in-depth discussion today.

I took the opportunity to thank the Minister, and in turn to thank Prime Minister Berlusconi and the Italian people for all the solid support they have provided to us in this time of crisis, and to extend my sympathy to those Italians and Italian-Americans who were lost in the World Trade Center.

We had a good exchange of views on how to move forward as an alliance, how to move forward as nations concerned about terrorism, and how to coordinate our efforts. And I look forward to staying in regular touch with the Minister in the days ahead.

So Renato, thank you for being here, and I invite you to say a word or two. And then the Minister will take questions, because I have to be at another meeting in about one minute.

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Thank you very much, Colin.

Well, as the Secretary of State said, we have a very good personal relation, and we had a very good meeting today. I came here to reiterate the strong support of the Italian people and the Italian Government for the American people and the Administration for the tragic events, but also to say that our solidarity is not just the solidarity of words or feelings, but that we are ready to participate to every action that will be considered necessary by the North Atlantic Council, including military operation in order to fight international terrorists according to Article V of the NATO.

And we have expressed also in doing this position and explaining this position, the support of the great majority of the Italian political forces to the American people, the Administration and to the wing of the Italian Government to participate to the NATO alliance with every possible action.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Renato, and I'll see you again soon.

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Thank you.

There are questions that you can ask?

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, exactly what -- when you say that Italy is prepared to assist in any military operation, exactly what has Italy offered the United States? What is it prepared to do exactly?

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Well, I mean, we are ready to offer to participate to every action, including military operation, means that -- I mean, when the moment will come, when there will be a decision to go into action, then we will see what is needed at that moment.

And the American administration knows that among the NATO allies, Italy is a country that is ready to go along, I mean, to what has been considered necessary by the North Atlantic Council. So we will see what is necessary. We cannot say now what it will be necessary. But we do not exclude anything.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you're ready to commit troops if necessary?

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Oh, yes. We are ready to commit everything, if they are necessary.

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, could you say how long you think the European Union countries would take to pass the swath of financial, security legislation that is called for in the recent EU statements over the weekend? What kind of time frame are we talking about?

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Well, I cannot answer to your question because really we have not discussed the time framework. But what I can tell you, that there is a strong will to go into that direction and certainly we will do all we can to do as quickly as possible.

One thing, one message that was very clear from my conversation here in Washington, is that the challenge we face needs a complex answer, not just a strategy based on military action, but an answer based on political measures, on financial measures, on legal measures, on economic measures. So we need a complex answer.

And so we will do all we can to give the financial aspects the priority that those actions deserve.

QUESTION: (In Italian.)

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: Well, what I can tell you is I mean in the conversation I had up to now, I mean, the message that I received is that there is not yet any clear idea of when and how military operation will be made.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, is Italy's support -- would there still be support from Italy if this were a broad campaign to potentially include so-called state sponsors of terrorism like Iraq?

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: No doubt. I mean, I do not want to mention one state or another, because no one has mentioned one state or another. But certainly our support will be a support for a long period of time, because we know that this is not a challenge that can be resolved in few weeks or in few months. And certainly, as it was even said by the General Assembly and by the resolution of the Security Council of September 12, I mean the action has to involve not only the terrorists and not only those who have backed terrorists, but also the states that have been involved in backing the terrorists. So from this point of view, there will be no limitations.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, can you say whether your country has found any bank accounts that have been frozen, any accounts that are linked to any of these groups?

FOREIGN MINISTER RUGGIERO: As far as I know, I do not. I cannot give an answer. I mean, I do not know. It is possible, but I do not know.

Thank you very much.

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