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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Abe thanks Prodi for Italy's loan of da Vinci

Staff writer

Visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi met Monday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and signed a joint statement pledging to boost bilateral cooperation in fields ranging from art to trade to security information exchanges.

During his summit with Prodi, Abe expressed thanks for Italy loaning out "The Annunciation" by Leonardo da Vinci for an exhibition in Tokyo. The work rarely leaves Florence's Uffizi Gallery.

"Representing the Japanese people, I'd like to say thanks for giving us this opportunity," Abe said during a joint news conference with Prodi.

"I am looking forward to seeing the work with my wife," Abe said before visiting the National Museum in Tokyo later in the day to view the masterpiece.

Prodi arrived Sunday in Tokyo on a three-day visit, becoming the first Italian prime minister to travel to Japan in seven years. His visit coincided with the exhibition, the main feature of the "Italian Spring 2007" campaign.

During the news conference, Prodi said the campaign is aimed at introducing various aspects of Italy, including art, business, science and technology.

With the joint statement, the two countries vowed to improve the bilateral business and investment environment, with Tokyo urging Rome to quicken the process of issuing working and residence visas to Japanese businesspeople.

Abe and Prodi also confirmed that the working holiday system for young people will continue between the two countries.

They agreed to promote security dialogue, including exchanging information about the growing military power of China, a government official who attended the meeting said.

Abe reiterated Japan's opposition to lifting the European Union's ban on military exports to China. Prodi only said EU members will continue to discuss the issue, the official said.

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The Japan Times

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