The Italian foreign minister said that groups such as Lebanese guerrillas Hizbullah and Palestinian group Hamas are not purely terrorist organizations and that efforts to bring them into the political fold should be encouraged.
"Hamas and Hizbullah are not al-Qaeda," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said in an interview with Corriere della Sera published Tuesday. "Besides their well-known responsibilities for terrorist actions, they have a political side, they are engaged in assistance."
"IRA and ETA have become political movements from (being) terror groups," D'Alema said, referring to groups that have carried out terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland and in Spain. "We must encourage this metamorphosis in the Middle East," D'Alema said.
"Instead, organizations that are purely dedicated to terror must be fought and defeated," he told Corriere, the country's leading newspaper.
Both Hizbullah and Hamas are on a US list of terror organizations. The European Union considers Hamas a terrorist organization but does not list Hizbullah.
'They could be part of political system'
D'Alema made the remarks as Italy was sending troops to Lebanon as part of a reinforcement of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern part of the Middle East country.
The Italian government approved sending 2,500 troops on Monday evening, the largest national contingent so far. A thousand Marines and engineer corps specialists were leaving later Tuesday as a vanguard of the contingent.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that "in my eyes, an organization that supports terror cannot be part of a political system _ these organizations use democracy to spread their antidemocratic ideas."
"If Hizbullah were really to take the decision to lay down its weapons and stopped representing this extremist Iranian ideology, the destruction of Israel, then they could be part of the political system in Lebanon," Livni said, speaking on Germany's ZDF television.