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Italian PM Calls USA 'Irreplaceable Bulwark of Freedom'

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2001 – The United States is the "irreplaceable bulwark" of freedom in the world, the Italian prime minister said at the Pentagon today.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spoke briefly to reporters after the two visited the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the building.

"My presence here is just to pay tribute -- my personal tribute, the tribute of my government and the tribute of my people -- to the victims of this tragic attack," Berlusconi told Italian and American press through an interpreter. "It was an attack on those people who that morning came to their office to perform their duty without knowing that they had been condemned to death by a handful of fanatics that want to instill fear and insecurity in the whole world."

The Italian leader said his country remembers well that they owe their own freedom and well-being to the United States, which has "contributed with so many young lives to our own freedom."

Two Italian military officers are at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., discussing ways Italy can help in terms of troops, and naval and air forces, he said.

In response to a question from Italian media, Wolfowitz hinted that Italy might take on more of the current U.S. mission in the Balkans, where both countries contribute a sizable number of troops to the ongoing peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. But he didn't rule out the Italian military might also help America in its war on terrorism.

"Italy has played a very big role in the Balkans," Wolfowitz said. "That's one of the places where we're feeling a certain amount of strain, so that's obviously a place where Italy might play a larger role. But I think Italy also can play a direct role in the ongoing operation in a number of ways we're investigating."

Berlusconi echoed a theme U.S. leaders have emphasized in recent weeks: There are no quick fixes in the fight against terrorism.

"It will be a long fight, but I am sure that we will win," Berlusconi said. "We will win by substituting fear with courage, by substituting resignation with determination."

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