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Berlusconi meets Gates to discuss Afghanistan, Haiti


Rome : Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met Saturday with US defence secretary Robert Gates for talks which Rome said focused chiefly on Afghanistan and Haiti.

An Italian government statement said Gates had thanked Rome for its pledge to boost troop levels in Afghanistan and for the prompt assistance in the relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti.

In December, Rome pledged a further 1,000 forces to its contingent in Afghanistan for a limited period during the course of this year. Italy currently has some 2,800 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Gates was in Rome after attending the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Istanbul, where he issued an urgent call for more military and police trainers to be sent to Afghanistan. He said 4,000 such experts were needed.

The US defence chief will remain in Rome until Monday, meeting in the meantime with Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. He then will travel on to Paris.