>>>ANSA/ 'Dark areas' in Kazakh deportation still plague govt +r

Italy mulls expelling ambassador to Rome

>>>ANSA/ 'Dark areas' in Kazakh deportation still plague govt +r

(By Christopher Livesay) Brussels, July 22 - Italy's foreign minister said Monday there "were still some dark areas" in the case of a Kazakh dissident's family deported from Rome, suggesting resolution in the embarrassing affair is still far off for Italy's fragile and divided left-right administration. "Other offices need to shed light on them," added Emma Bonino as she entered a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels. The Italian Senate on Friday rejected a no-confidence motion in Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano over the expulsion of Alma Shalabayeva, wife of Kazakh oligarch and political opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov, and their six-year-old daughter, who were apprehended in a nighttime raid by Italian police late in May. They were rushed onto a private jet with Kazakh diplomats and flown back to a country whose human-rights record has been questioned by several organisations. Alfano's chief of staff at the interior ministry resigned over the scandal last week. Premier Enrico Letta's left-right fragile government would have been in peril if Alfano had failed to pass the confidence test. Before the vote, Letta called on Senators to reject the motion, saying it was "clear" Alfano had nothing to do with the expulsion following the results of an internal investigation. He argued that rejecting the motion was a vote of confidence in his executive, which is based on an unprecedented alliance between his centre-left Democratic Party, the biggest group in parliament, and their long-standing bitter rivals in the PdL. Letta told the Senate that his government was not underestimating the importance of the case, saying it was a cause for "embarrassment and disrepute" for Italy. But he stressed that no one in the higher levels of government knew about the deportation until after it took place and stressed that the administration had behaved with "total transparency". Extra attention has centered around Alfano because he is also the secretary of the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of Silvio Berlusconi, who during his stints as premier helped foster lucrative commercial ties between Italy and energy-rich Kazakhstan. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, considered an autocrat by rights groups for his crackdowns on opposition groups, is a staunch political rival of Ablyazov. Kazakhstan insists Ablyazov, a banker, is not a dissident but an outlaw wanted for a multi-billion-euro embezzlement case at his BTA Bank. Since the deportation of his family, the Italian government was pressured by opposition political parties at home to review the case, in which it ultimately decided to reverse the expulsion order. Its review also found irregularities in the protocol followed by Kazakhstan's ambassador to Rome, Adrian Yelemessov, who pressured the interior ministry to hand over Ablyazov's kin. The Italian foreign ministry "is still considering" expelling him, Bonino said Monday. "My first concern is to not weaken our presence in (the Kazakh capital of) Astana by reacting," she added, in what was interpreted as a hint to Kazakh officials to withdraw its ambassador on its own. If Italy were to expel him, there is a strong likelihood that Kazakhstan would expel the Italian ambassador to Astana. Last week Bonino met with Kazakhstan's charge d'affaires to ask for an explanation as to why the foreign ministry was never contacted. On Monday she said that the European Union was "amply informed" of the case. "The EU presidency has furthermore guaranteed to...monitor the situation," she said.

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