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Italian premier pressures India for decision on marines

Khurshid assures Monti Indian supreme court decision imminent

06 November, 15:38
Italian premier pressures India for decision on marines (ANSA) - Vientiane (Laos), November 6 - The Italian premier urged India's newly appointed foreign minister on Tuesday to help resolve the fate of two Italian anti-pirate marines detained in India for criminal charges that include killing two fishermen in February.

The exchange took place during a brief meeting between Italian Premier Mario Monti and Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid on the margins of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Vientiane, according to a source close to the Italian government. The Italian premier reminded the Indian diplomatic chief that the Italian government is still waiting for an Indian Supreme Court ruling, and hoped it would allow a "positive" solution in the case of the two marines, the source related.

The Indian minister expressed confidence the Indian Supreme Court would very soon reach a decision, the source said.

Italian Foreign Minister Guilio Terzi has lobbied hard over the last month to get an answer from India, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano ratified a bilateral agreement last month that says convicted offenders can serve their sentences in their country of origin. Last week Terzi contacted Khurshid - just days after the Indian diplomatic chief's appointment - to stress Italy's wish to bring the two anti-pirate marines home.

India's Supreme Court has still not given its ruling - more than a month later than originally indicated - on Italy's petition that it should have jurisdiction over the case because the incident took place on an Italian ship.

Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Italy and India since being detained in February for the shooting of the two fisherman in the southern port of Kerala, Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki.

The Italian government believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

They were granted bail in June, but must remain in Indian territory.

Khurshid was named Indian foreign minister on October 29 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who reorganized roughly a third of his cabinet in what was widely seen as a bid to regain electoral support ahead of elections.