Russian, Italian presidents discuss trade, European security

Moscow - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano met with Russia's ruling duo president Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday for talks a Kremlin spokesman said would focus on international diplomacy, as Italy assumes the G8 presidency next year.

"In the discussions on international affairs, particular attention was given to the two countries interaction in the G8 ... and also in the United Nations and within the framework of the Russia-EU partnership," the Interfax news agency quoted the Kremlin source as saying.

"Between our countries there exits a special relationship. I am speaking not only of economic and cultural relations, but an attitude of deep sympathy, friendship and all the elements that exist in daily life," Interfax reported Medvedev as welcoming his Italian counterpart.

Italy's leading politician, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is known for his close ties to Putin, but the Kremlin extended the invitation to 83-year-old Napolitano in recognition of his influence in EU politics, the business daily Kommersant suggested Wednesday.

"Moscow wants to use his authority to make its own ideas known in the European Union," the newspaper wrote, citing Russian diplomatic sources.

Moscow hopes to win EU support in conflicts with the United States over its plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and its promotion of NATO enlargement eastward as well as ratification of a revised Cold War-era arms control treaty that Russia views as defunct.

In a strongly-worded speech Tuesday, Medvedev said US policy on missile defense threatened to unravel the established framework of European security.

"We are unsatisfied," Medvedev said. "This common (security) heritage cannot survive if one of the sides destroys isolated elements of the strategic construction."

Moscow says US plans to deploy parts of a missile defence shield in eastern Europe undermine its nuclear deterrent, while Washington views the shield as a necessary defence against threats from "rogue states" such as Iran.

Napolitano said support for closer cooperation between European and Russia was "absolutely necessary," in an interview with Russian daily Nezavisima Gazeta on Tuesday.

He said such relations could help to promote the rule of law and empower Russian citizens to fight against corruption.

Italy is Russia's third largest trading partner, with Medvedev saying Wednesday that between the two countries topped 37 million dollars last year. (dpa)