Italy and Britain smooth over rift over botched Nigerian raid
Mar 22, 2012, 15:28 GMT
Rome - Italy and Britain on Thursday defused a row over a failed hostage rescue attempt in Nigeria, pledging to focus on intensifying joint efforts against terrorism.
Italian Foreign Minister Guilio Terzi said during the talks in Rome that Italy was 'strongly disappointed,' by the British government's decision to only inform Rome of the March 8 rescue operation once it was underway.
But, speaking at a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Terzi said his government had 'taken note of the very difficult situation on the ground.'
Terzi was referring to the raid by British and Nigerian special forces in which two hostages - Italian Franco Lamolinara and Briton Chris McManus - were killed by their captors.
Hague, for his part, said he wished to renew his 'deep condolences' for the two victims and expressed 'great disappointment' for the outcome of the operation.
But he denied reports that the British had decided not to inform the Italian government of the operation - which was carried out in the north-western Nigerian city of Sokoto - for fear that Rome would oppose the plan.
British and Italian officials had worked closely in the months following the May 12 kidnapping of Lamolinara and McManus, Hague said.
However, 'events had moved quickly' after intelligence reports suggested that the two hostages were in danger of being killed, he added.
'We did what we think was right under the circumstances,' Hague said.
Earlier, the British Foreign Secretary also held separate talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and President Giorgio Napolitano.
In the wake of 'continued threats' to citizens of their countries abroad, Italy and Britain have agreed to 'intensify our already close cooperation' by establishing a 'High Level Group on terrorism,' Terzi and Hague said.
Meetings at senior official level would take place to discuss counterterrorism and related issues including efforts focused upon kidnapping, 'piracy, radicalization, Yemen, Somalia and Libya,' the two said in a statement issued after their meeting.
As a first step, Italy and Britain 'will consider how best to help strengthen Nigeria's capacity to tackle the threat posed by terrorism, including support to regional law enforcement and security coordination,' the statement said.
In recent years, several foreigners - mainly oil workers - have been kidnapped in Nigeria.
Three Britons and a Colombian were kidnapped in January 2010. In November of the same year, four men from the US, Canada and France were taken.
In January 2011, two French hostages were kidnapped from Niamey, the capital of neighbouring Niger, and taken to northern Nigeria.
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