Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro expressed reservations April 16 over Japan’s bid to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Permanent seats on the body should not be occupied by major countries only, Scalfaro told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club. “A majority of U.N. member countries would lose interest in the international body if only major countries are the permanent members of the Security Council,” Scalfaro said.

Italy is said to be opposed to enlarging the Security Council because of its opposition to Germany’s efforts to gain a permanent seat.

On Wednesday evening, Italy and Japan were at odds over how the UNSC should be reformed during a meeting between Scalfaro and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. However, such differences do not mean there is any hostility between the two countries, Scalfaro said during a speech at the opening of a dinner hosted by Hashimoto.

In his speech, Hashimoto indirectly stressed the importance of Japan getting a permanent seat, saying strengthening the Security Council through enlarging the body is essential for the international community. Scalfaro meanwhile told Hashimoto before the dinner that Italy hopes to strengthen relations with Japan in a variety of fields, including political and economic relations, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Scalfaro told Hashimoto that Italy hopes to serve as a gateway to Europe for Japan as it seeks to deepen relations with European countries, the officials said.

Hashimoto praised Italy’s efforts at reducing its fiscal deficit and meeting the criteria for joining a European monetary union, they said.

On Wednesday, the Emperor and Empress held a luncheon for Scalfaro and his daughter, Marianne, at the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Household Agency said.

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