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Italy Angry Over Exclusion, But Said Not Likely To Cancel Summit

February 26, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Italy is unlikely to carry out a threat to cancel a summit meeting with President Reagan and six other leaders in Venice this June, but steps may be needed to assuage Italian anger that prompted the warning, U.S. officials and private experts say.

″Nobody believes the summit will be canceled; this is a question of Italy blowing off steam,″ said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Italy’s threat followed its exclusion Saturday from a private meeting and dinner that finance ministers and central bankers from the United States, Britain, Japan, France and West Germany convened in Paris to discuss measures to aid the world economy.

Italy and Canada - the other participants in the annual economic summits - were invited to attend a formal session of the Paris conference Sunday, but Italian Treasury Minister Giovanni Gloria declined to take part on grounds that Italy had been relegated to a subordinate role.

Italian officials also said the private session violated an agreement at the Tokyo summit last year to include Italy and Canada in the ministerial level conferences.

A statement issued by Prime Minister Bettino Craxi’s office said the annual economic summit June 6-8 in Venice will be impossible unless Italy’s role is clarified.

The aim of the finance ministers’ meetings is to coordinate monetary, trade and industrial policies to keep the world economy on an even keel.

Italy asserts that decisions by the group have a major impact on its economy and that it should be included. Other countries contend that much of the policy coordination concerns currency rates and Italy is not in the top rank because the Italian lire does not have the same influence on world money markets as the other nations’ currencies.

″We were surprised by the Italian position but we think it’s something we can work out,″ said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

Speaking privately, officials - and a source at the Italian embassy - were even more doubtful the threat would be carried out.

They noted that Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti said Italy still plans to host the session and that under a power-transfer system arranged after the last Italian government reorganization, Andreotti is likely to be prime minister before the summit.

Since the economic summits began in the mid-1970s, the seven participants have taken regular turns acting as hosts and no country has missed its turn.

Italian Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini did not raise the cancellation issue with President Reagan when they met Monday, officials said.

Robert Lawrence, an international economics expert at the Brookings Institution, said he doubted Italy would cancel, but its displeasure at being kept out of discussions of the ″Group of Five″ is understandable because ″they are obviously a major economic power in Europe.″

″I believe two other people at the table wouldn’t cost us that much,″ he said.

A U.S. official said the other five nations might try to work out a formula that would permit Italy to participate more in economic decisions, while preserving the confidentiality and cohesion of the smaller group.

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