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Gentiloni (left) and Zarif in Tehran
Gentiloni (left) and Zarif in Tehran

ROME — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has chosen Italy as his first major Western destination since winning elections in 2013, and the first to come in the wake of the Vienna accords on Iran's nuclear program and the lifting of international sanctions.

Italian newspaper La Stampa first reported earlier this month that the president will meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi from Nov. 14-15, with the trip also expected to include a visit with Pope Francis.

The summit was first proposed back in August, when Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni led a mission to Tehran for talks and invited the President to Italy. Other European countries, including Germany, were also bidding for the symbolically relevant position of being the first post-sanctions destination to host the Iranian leader.

Gentiloni was accompanied on his trip by a delegation of Italian business leaders — including oil giant Eni, the first foreign oil company to sign a production agreement with Iran in the 1950s, according to Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The talks in Tehran centered on developing political and business ties between the two countries, and the upcoming summit in Italy presents an opportunity to continue progress on this front. Gentiloni's Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will accompany Rouhani to Rome to discuss increasing Italian investment in Iran and strengthening bilateral ties, prospects made more attractive by the signing of the Vienna nuclear agreement.

Italian-Iranian relations have never been as frigid as those between Tehran and some other Western countries. Indeed Rome was also the location for Mohammad Khatami's visit in 1999, the first by an Iranian President to the West since the 1979 revolution.

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At the Russia-Georgia border

Yelena Afonina/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger, Chloe Touchard and Emma Albright

Russia’s neighbors — from Finland in the west to Mongolia 3,100 miles (5,076 km) to the east — are being flooded with the arrival of men fleeing the national draft announced last week as Moscow's invasion of Ukraine falters. Some 2,000 miles to the south of Helsinki, at the border with Georgia, there are reports of long lines of cars and bicycles trying to leave and Russian crackdowns on men trying to flee.

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In the first two days after Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization, 261,000 men of conscription age have left the country. Observers believe that has likely doubled since. The most popular destinations are the neighboring countries where one can enter without a visa or even without an international passport, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia.

But Finland too has reported a major uptick, with nearly 19,000 arriving, compared to 9,000 crossing in the opposite direction. "The arrival rate is about double what it was a week ago," Mert Sasioglu of the Finnish border guard told AFP.

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