Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suggests increasing his nation's involvement in the Middle East by placing Italian forces on the Syria-Lebanon border, as well as a multinational force along the Philadelphi route.
Prodi met Saturday with Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin in Rome and told him that Italy is interested in helping prevent arms smuggling to Hamas and Hizbullah.
He elaborated that Italy is waiting for an answer from Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was asked if he would agreed to the presence of armed monitors in Lebanon, along its border with Syria.
Prodi added that a multinational force should be deployed in the West Bank as well, in order to promote a cessation of violence between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
The Italian PM also told Beilin that he supports the MK's plans aimed at arriving at a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by 2010.
Prodi praised the speech by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday, during a ceremony honoring the late David Ben Gurion, in which the latter announced his willingness to concede a large amount of territory to the Palestinians if they will be willing to negotiate.
Prodi said that he opposed a withdrawal from the preconditions set forth by the Quartet to recognize a Palestinian government, but said that it would be a mistake to isolate Syria.
Prodi and Beilin also discussed Iran. Prodi called the current regime in the country "rational", stating that Iran's objective was not a nuclear bomb, but rather recognition of its leading status in the region.
Prodi's comments on Iran came on the heels of a letter he'd received two weeks ago from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which stated that Iran was willing to speak with Italy in order to bring an end to the Middle East crisis.
Following his meeting with Prodi, Beilin met with Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema. D'Alema echoed Prodi's sentiments and stated it was necessary to extend the ceasefire in Gaza to the West Bank as soon as possible.