German foreign minister meets his Italian counterpart in Rome

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier met his Italian counterpart Friday as part of a rapid diplomatic tour days after taking his post in the new coalition government. Steinmeier's meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini follows a trip Thursday to the Netherlands, where he discussed European Union cooperation and bilateral ties with Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot. Steinmeier flies to Spain later Friday.

During the visits, Steinmeier was expected to discuss prospects of breaking an impasse on the EU's future budget. Steinmeier also visited Paris and the EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, a day after Merkel took office.

Next week, Steinmeier will travel to New York to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It remains unclear how aggressively Merkel will pursue Schroeder's drive to secure Germany a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, an effort that Italy has bitterly resisted, fearing that such a change would reduce its own relative influence on the world stage, reports the AP. N.U.

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