Italy's Rage Reaches the White House

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Speaking through translators slows down conversation. And that may be a good thing when President Clinton meets Italy's Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema at the White House Friday, because the Italian leader has plenty of reason to be spitting mad. The acquittal of Marine Captain Richard Ashby over the Cavalese ski-lift accident has infuriated Italians, and D'Alema didn't pull any punches in commenting on the verdict: "With that kind of a massacre, with so many casualties, I think it is a duty to ensure that justice is done," he said.

Italy's quest for justice won't end with Ashby's trial -- a guilty verdict might have brought the issue to a close, but his acquittal simply shifts the burden of responsibility higher up the chain of command. And it's not as if Clinton and D'Alema can lighten the mood by changing the subject to more routine matters such as trade. The U.S. Thursday began requiring that importers of Italian pecorino cheese, along with a range of other European products, post bonds to cover punitive 100 percent tariffs imposed in the continuing banana conflict. At least on military matters, Washington and Rome are at peace; when it comes to trade, they're at war.

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