India-Italy row: Kerala cardinal seeks peaceful solution

India-Italy row: Kerala cardinal seeks peaceful solution

Amid a raging row over the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian soldiers, a cardinal from Kerala has appealed to the state authorities not to resort to "precipitate action" and warned the opposition against trying to "exploit the situation".

After the last week incident, "I immediately contacted the Catholic Ministers of Kerala urging the government not to act precipitately," Kochi-based George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala who has recently been elected a cardinal, told Catholic news agency 'Fides' here.

"In the episode, of course, there were errors, since the fishermen were mistaken for pirates. But ... it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of 'Western powers' or the 'will of American dominance'," he was quoted as saying.

Police in Kerala on Sunday arrested two Italian soldiers guarding an Italian-flagged oil tanker on charges of gunning down two fishermen. The duo --  Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone -- were yesterday remanded in three-day police custody by a local magistrate who rejected their contention that they cannot be prosecuted under Indian law.

Alencherry, who was made a cardinal at a ceremony by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Saturday, is seeking a peaceful solution to the issue.

The cardinal was accompanied here by K V Thomas, Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

Alencherry's comments on the issue came as Italy dispatched to India its Junior Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura, who  will "continue on a political level the action so far carried out by a delegation of experts from the Italian foreign, defence and justice ministries."

In a statement, the Italian Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi will also visit India next Tuesday.

Terzi had yesterday said that there were "currently considerable differences of a legal character" on the issue of the arrest of the two Italian soldiers.

"Complicating an already complex situation are the elections being held in Kerala that are without a doubt influencing the feelings of the citizens and as a consequence risk influencing the investigation," the Italian Foreign Minister had claimed.