Lough Erne

Letta meets Obama as G8 gets down to work

U.S. president to put youth unemployment on agenda

Letta meets Obama as G8 gets down to work

(By Christopher Livesay) Lough Erne, June 17 - In his first-ever tete-a-tete with Italian Premier Enrico Letta, US President Barack Obama said he intends to discuss unemployment, especially as it affects young people, in a speech at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week, according to Italian sources there Monday. The sources said that Obama and Letta went over the rising rate of joblessness in Italy, the eurozone and elsewhere in the industrialized world. Letta has made fixing youth unemployment a keystone of his premiership, pushing the issue at several EU meetings since he assumed the head of the government in April. Leaders from the world's eight biggest economies this week are also scheduled to tackle economic growth and fighting tax evasion, while Syria's conflict is set to dominate the gathering. According to Italian delegates, Obama told Letta in their meeting that he was "very concerned about the situation in Syria," especially about "the use of chemical weapons". On Thursday the Obama administration cited the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government as justification for deciding to supply military support to rebel forces. All eyes are thus on Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putini, who has continued to support the Bashar Assad regime and defy pleas to cease from the US and the international community. On Monday, Pope Francis wrote to the summit's host, British Prime Minister David Cameron, calling on G8 leaders to work towards a ceasefire in Syria and to bring all parties involved in the conflict to the negotiating table. Before arriving at the summit, Putin said in London that no weapons should be provided to rebels "who are eating the internal organs of enemies", referring to a recent video showing a rebel apparently cutting out the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier and biting into the heart. As for the topic of tax evasion, Italian Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni presented a foretaste of his country's position in Rome. The government, he said, remained committed to waging war on rampant tax evasion, adding it was necessary for "social justice". But he also stressed that the tax authorities had to account for honest people who were having trouble paying tax bills as Italy struggles with its longest recession in over 20 years. Tax collectors for the Equitalia agency, which takes action to recover outstanding tax revenues, have become hate figures during the recession and its offices in many parts of the country have come under a series of attacks. At the weekend the government approved a decree which stipulated that Equitalia cannot take possession of people's main residences for outstanding tax bills, unless these homes have an exceptionally high market value. "In a period in which the Italian people have to face sacrifices on a daily basis, tenacious pursuit of evaders and the facilitation of fiscal obligations for honest taxpayers are important initiatives for achieving greater social justice," Saccomanni told a meeting of finance police officers. "The fight against tax evasion cannot be slowed down at all, but it can and must take account of the needs of taxpayers in difficulty". Meanwhile in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, Obama invited the Italian premier to the White House, sources said. Details and dates were not made known, but the visit is reportedly to take place before the end of the year.

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