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Italy minister: Chemical weapons 'tragic mistake'

By CNN wires
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Mon September 9, 2013
  • Italian Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni told CNN that Italy "firmly" condemns the use of chemical weapons
  • Saccomanni's comments come as members of U.S. Congress are due to debate support for military action
  • U.S. President Barack Obama says he has "high confidence" that the regime is to blame for the use of chemical weapons
  • Saccomanni also said he hoped the fragile coalition government did not fall

Editor's note: Watch the full interview with Italian Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni on Marketplace Europe on Thursday September 12 at 14:45 p.m. ET and 18:45 p.m. GMT. You can also see CNN's Wolf Blitzer report on his interview with U.S. President Barack Obama on The Situation Room at 18:00 p.m. ET, 10:00 p.m. GMT.

(CNN) -- The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a "tragic mistake" but Italy will only participate in military action with the approval of the United Nations Security Council, according to the country's finance minister.

Fabrizio Saccomanni, a member of Italy's coalition government under Prime Minister Enrico Letta, told CNN that Italy "firmly" condemns the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.

Referring to a possible U.S.-led military strike on Syria, he said: "That doesn't mean that we will oppose other types of action by other countries, but we think it is important to continue to cooperate."

Saccomanni's comments come as members of U.S. Congress are due to debate support for military action in Syria. President Barack Obama says the U.S. has "high confidence" that Syria used chemical weapons - the strongest position the U.S. can take short of confirmation.

Britain, France, and Germany have said their intelligence backs up the same conclusion although elsewhere, doubts remain.

Congress gets to work on Syria

Saccomanni added: "There is... continuous attention also to the humanitarian aspects of the crisis and I think Italy, like other countries, has committed humanitarian funds and aid to Syria."

Pope Francis's vigil for peace in Syria

Italy's economic pain

Saccomanni was speaking to CNN amid fears Italy's coalition government could collapse following the sentencing of former Prime Minister and coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud.

Berlusconi -- leader of the center-right party The People of Freedom -- is facing a four-year sentence and there are fears this could destabilize an already fragile government.

Asked if the coalition could fail, Saccomanni said: "I hope it doesn't." Saccomanni added: "It is a possibility, but the probability of it happening is decreasing day by day."

The country is also struggling with spiraling unemployment and a high national debt, resulting in a deep recession.

But following a spate of positive data out of the eurozone, Saccomanni, formerly the Bank of Italy's deputy governor, expects the country's economic prospects to improve next year.

He said that Italy's new coalition government is ready to restart investment in infrastructure projects and energy efficient technologies to put the eurozone's third-largest economy back on the path to growth.

Saccomanni blamed the lack of training for young people, in subjects such as computer science, and Italy's insufficient investment in new technologies as the reason for the country's lack of competitiveness.

CNN's Isa Soares and Oliver Joy contributed to this report

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