The case of two Italian marines and their trial in India is a ‘bilateral’ issue, U.N. General Assembly president John Ashe said on Friday, days after he had told Italy that he would try and raise the issue with Indian leadership during his visit to New Delhi this week.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano met Mr. Ashe here on March 17 and ‘‘briefed him on the situation of the two-year-old case of the two Italian marines in India.’’ A spokesperson said.

‘‘In response, Mr. Ashe informed the Minister that in the course of his imminent State visit to India, he would be alert for whatever opportunity presents itself to raise the issue," it had said.

However, in a clarification, Mr. Ashe's office now said the issue was a bilateral one between India and Italy.

"The (Italian) Deputy Prime Minister briefed the president of the General Assembly on issues of priority for the country...and on the situation of the two-year-old case of two Italian marines in India.

“In recognition of the bilateral nature of the issue, Mr. Ashe took due note of the points highlighted by Mr. Alfano," the spokesperson said.

Mr. Ashe is on a three-day visit to India that began on March 19.

During the visit, Mr. Ashe met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid.

When asked if he took up the Italian marines’ case with India, Mr. Ashe said the General Assembly deals with multilateral and not bilateral issues. ‘‘I am the president of the General Assembly. The Assembly deals with multilateral issues," he said.

Mr. Alfano also met U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week, but according to information provided by the office of Mr.Ban's spokesperson, there was no mention of the issue of the Italian marines and their trial in India. — PTI

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