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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berlusconi: NATO to Sign Accord With Russia in May

ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Italy will host a NATO-Russia summit in late May to sign a new cooperation agreement.

He made the announcement after telephone conversations Friday with President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President George W. Bush and NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson.

The agreement will be formalized at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Iceland on May 14-15 and then signed by heads of state in Italy at the end of May, Berlusconi said at a news conference.

"The historic nature of this event is that it is the first step toward the total integration of the Russian Federation into the Atlantic alliance," he said.

Bush voiced his support for a NATO-Russia summit in his telephone conversations with Putin and Berlusconi, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"A NATO-Russia summit, in the president's opinion, would highlight the new relationship that has been developed between Russia and the West, between Russia and NATO, as well as the United States, of course," Fleischer said in Washington. "And the president informed both of it. They both welcomed the idea."

NATO nations agreed in December to build stronger ties with Russia, grateful for Putin's cooperation in the post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism campaign.

Berlusconi has sought to raise his profile on the international stage since taking office last year. He also serves as Italy's foreign minister.

He first offered to host a NATO-Russia summit in March, then followed up with a visit to Moscow. During the visit, he said closer ties between Russia and the West would strengthen global stability and pledged his support for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization.

In a joint statement at the end of the Moscow visit, he and Putin said a new framework for Russia-NATO cooperation must provide for "joint decisions and actions on a broad spectrum of security issues." (AP, Reuters)