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Italy blasts EU's response to Christian persecutions

Frattini also hits out at EC for 'forgetting' Christmas

22 December, 14:31
Italy blasts EU's response to Christian persecutions

(ANSA) - Rome, December 22 - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini blasted the European Union on Wednesday for not doing more to combat Christian persecutions in Iraq and other Middle Eastern Countries.

Frattini said United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also worried about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who are leaving the region in increasing numbers, especially from Iraq, where they have been the victims of a series of bomb attacks this year.

''We are worried and so are the United States and other big nations,'' Frattini said on Italian television, having spoken to Clinton on the telephone Tuesday to exchange Christmas greetings.

''Frankly, it is a little sad that Europe isn't reacting on this issue as it should''.

Italy is set to present a resolution to the United Nations on religious freedom which aims to stop this persecution and it has the backing of the EU, while several non-EU countries have expressed ''great interest''.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI said Christians were the religious group that suffered most persecution around the world.

The foreign minister also expressed indignation Wednesday at the European Commission for forgetting to highlight Christmas in a diary for 2011 released by the European Union's executive.

The diary marks Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Chinese festivities, but the festivals of the continent's biggest religion, including Christmas, were left out.

''Publishing three million copies of a diary with European taxpayers' money with the all the festivals of all the religious except for December 25 is indecent,'' Frattini said on Italian television.

''The European Commission has apologized, but it's too easy for some bureaucrat to admit a mistake. I want to know who it was and I want the dairies withdrawn''. Frattini also confirmed Wednesday that Italy will start its gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan in the new year, hopefully in spring.

Italy and the other members of the NATO-led ISAF mission are aiming to hand back security control to the Afghan authorities in phases ahead of a total withdrawal of combat forces in 2014.

''Spring 2011 is an opportune moment for the start of the withdrawal, but obviously we'll do this in coordination with the NATO command,'' he said in an interview with the

''(United States President Barack) Obama has spoken of spring 2011. ''In the first half of next year we'll start the withdrawal, area-by-area, region-by-region, although we've said that we won't say which to avoid giving useful information to the terrorists and the Taliban''.