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Secretary-General meets with Italian leaders at start of official visit

Secretary-General meets with Italian leaders at start of official visit

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The troubled situations in the Middle East, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Kosovo topped the agenda during talks between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Italy’s President and Foreign Minister in Rome today, the start of an official trip that will take in stops in Switzerland, Qatar and Syria as well.

Mr. Ban also discussed climate change, United Nations reform, the Darfur crisis, Somalia and Western Sahara during his talks with President Giorgio Napolitano and Foreign Minister Massimo d’Alema, his spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.

In a joint press conference after his talks with Mr. d’Alema, Mr. Ban commended Italy as the only country to rank in the world’s top eight in both troop and financial contributions to the UN.

Asked about capital punishment, Mr. Ban said that he and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour “fully support the growing trend in the international community toward the abolition of the use of the death penalty.”

The Secretary-General also met with the foreign affairs committees of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate in the Italian Parliament, as well as with other officials.

Later today he is scheduled to hold a tête-à-tête meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and attend a dinner hosted by senior Italian parliamentarians.

When he travels to Switzerland, Mr. Ban will hold talks with leaders of the Swiss Government and chair a meeting of the Chief Executives Board, which brings together top officials from across the UN system.

He is then slated to speak before the Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade in Doha, Qatar, before heading to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where meetings with senior Government officials, including President Bashar Assad, are expected.