The Italian Almanac

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Cesare Battisti

Diplomatic Incident

Brazil wants to avoid aggravating a diplomatic polemic with Italy, over its granting asylum to a convicted terrorist, but there are reports that its president feels Rome`s move to recall its ambassador was ``exaggerated``. According to the Brazilian Estado news agency, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said in private that while he thought the Italian foreign ministry overreacted, it was best for members of government to avoid making problems between the two countries worse.

Rome recalled its ambassador after Brazilian authorities had definitively shelved its request that a decision to grant political asylum to a terrorist convicted for four murders be reconsidered. Brazil angered many in Italy when it granted Cesare Battisti, 54, political asylum on the grounds that he risked political persecution were he to return to Italy. Italy protested to the highest level with President Giorgio Napolitano writing personally to Lula to express his dismay over the decision by Brazilian Justice Minister Tarso Genro which he said implied that Battisti`s democratic rights would not be guaranteed in Italy.

Lula is reported to have replied to Napolitano but as yet no details have been made public on the contents of his letter.