• U.S.

National Affairs: Hi Mario!

3 minute read

At the National Press Club last week, Italy’s Premier Mario Scelba faced perhaps the most perilous moment of his U.S. tour: question time. As usual, the assembled correspondents tossed some curves to test the visitor’s sense of humor. Do daily siestas contribute to Italy’s over population? “The question is very pertinent,” said Scelba, smiling slightly. “But the siesta is devoted to rest and not to work.” The newsmen roared. Then came another: Did Actress Gina Lollobrigida express the official viewpoint in stating that married women have more sex appeal? “The Italian government,” said Scelba dryly, “is favorable to marriage.”

Adroit, fast-moving Mario Scelba took the U.S. in his stride. During his state visit to Washington he had an hour-long conference with President Eisenhower, followed by a White House luncheon. He visited Capitol Hill, where he got a standing ovation from the House and Senate, conferred with Vice President Richard Nixon and four Cabinet-rank officials, including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

From Washington, the Premier went on a week-long whirl through New York, Philadelphia. Detroit and Chicago (Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino was going to San Francisco and Los Angeles). In Manhattan, where Scelba was welcomed by a cheering crowd, eager greeters pumped his hands and bussed his glowing pink cheeks. Some excavation workers called out: “Hi Mario! Paesan!” In two garment factories Italian-American seamstresses welcomed him with kisses, songs, dances and sentimental weeping. Amidst all the emotion Scelba shed a happy tear or two himself.

This week Premier Scelba is flying home with some personal mementoes (including three honorary doctorates and a silver statuette of the Empire State Building). As a friendly gesture to Italy, the U.S. made available ten tons of heavy water for the Italian atomic-reactor program. More economic aid seemed to be on the way: the International Bank in Washington worked up plans for a $200 million program of loans to Italy, beginning with some $60 million this year.

For his part, Scelba repeatedly pledged Italy’s friendship and gratitude to the U.S. and allegiance to the ideal of Western unity. Europe’s alternatives, he said, are “integration or disintegration.” Asked about Italy’s attitude on the Far East issue, he replied, simply: “Italy is an ally of the U.S.” Scelba promised to use democratic means in dealing effectively with Italy’s internal Communist menace.* “The Communists are losing,” he said. “We are certain that Italy will never become a satellite of Moscow. We are strong and growing stronger. Our great ambition is to win the battle of liberty and democracy—with liberty and democracy.”

*For news of a major Communist setback in Italy this week, see FOREIGN NEWS.

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