If George Bush had reservations about Italy’s centre-left prime minister when he was first elected a year ago there was no evidence of that on Saturday. Romano Prodi warmly welcomed the US president to Rome on the latest stop of his tour of European countries following the G8 summit.
Bilateral ties have been strained by the ongoing trial of US agents over the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Italy.
But Prodi was keen to stress the strength of their alliance:
“There really is active cooperation, both on the problems of Afghanistan and the difficult problem of Iran,” he said in a press conference after their meeting. “We share the same position about the danger of atomic arms proliferation. We agree on the path that must be followed.”
The two leaders discussed a range of issues including Kosovo. Bush said the troubled province needed a solution soon:
“It’s time to bring this issue to a head and obviously there is a concern about what that would mean, whether to accept it or not, I understand that. The Kosovars are eagerly anticipating a decision by the world and at the same time Romano is right, we need to make sure that the Serbs see a way forward, one good way for that is, potentially, EU membership”.
Earlier, after a visit to the Vatican the US President said he felt “awe” in meeting Pope Benedict for the first time. Among the issues they discussed was Iraq – on which they have differing views.