12:49 GMT +318 February 2019
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    MOSCOW, July 15, (RIA Novosti) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has come to Rome, will meet with Italian President Carlo Ciampi, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and House of Deputies speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini. He also plans to talk with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

    The sides will discuss the schedule of top-level visits and bilateral interaction in such major international organisations as the EU and NATO. They plan to approve a joint document on mutual understanding between the two countries' foreign ministries.

    A separate subject of negotiations and discussions by Lavrov in Rome will be further deepening of economic co-operation with Italy. Italy is the second largest of Russia's West European partners. New important projects have been launched in this area in the past few years and their implementation is expected to raise the standards of bilateral economic ties. This applies above all to the implementation of Berlusconi's idea to set up industrial estates in Russia with Italian experience, and to new co-operation opportunities in outer space and high technologies.

    The sides will also discuss priorities in cultural and humanitarian co-operation. One of the key projects for the immediate future is a joint exhibition called "Russia-Italy: Across Centuries" to be held in Rome in October-December 2004 and in Moscow in February-May 2005 under the patronage of the two presidents.

    The ministers will discuss settlement in Iraq and in the Middle East and touch on individual aspects of the situation in the Balkans, around Iran and North Korea.

    Apart from meetings with the Italian leadership, the Russian minister will also meet Angelo Sodani, Secretary of State of the Vatican. This meeting will be of particular interest in view of a statement made by Vatican representatives concerning the intention of the Pope to hand to the Russian Orthodox Church the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which has for many years graced his personal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

    The ceremony of handing the relic to representatives of the Moscow Patriarchy will be held on August 28, at the Orthodox festivity of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. The icon is a copy of the holy image found outside the walls of the Kazan Kremlin in the 16th century. The original had mysteriously disappeared shortly before the revolution of 1917 and has not been found to this day.

    The Kazan icon has always been highly revered in Russia. Peter the Great took it with him when he led the Russian army to the battle of Poltava and military leader Mikhail Kutuzov prayed to it for the salvation of Russia from Napoleon's armies.

    Later in the day Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will leave for Paris on a working visit.

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