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ROME, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Italy on Friday urged Malta to take in a ship carrying more than 200 rescued migrants as the new government pressures European partners to shoulder more of the burden of immigration from North Africa.

The Dutch-flagged ship run by the German charity Mission Lifeline was seeking a nearby European dock, a day after anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the vessel should take the migrants to the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, Salvini pledged to no longer let charity ships bring rescued migrants to Italy, leaving the Gibraltar-flagged Aquarius stranded at sea for days with more than 600 migrants on board until Spain offered them safe haven. Malta also refused to take in the Aquarius.

"For the safety of the crew and those rescued we humanly and politically ask Malta to finally open one of its ports, and then seize the ship and its crew," Salvini said in Siena, Italy.

Malta, a small island nation, has not taken in large numbers of people rescued at sea, while Italy has seen 650,000 arrivals since 2014.

On Friday, Malta had not received a call for help from the ship, Lifeline, or from Italy's coastguard, Maltese government sources said. Lifeline was sailing about half way between Tripoli and Malta early on Friday.

"Malta cannot back out," Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who oversees the coastguard, said. The European Union's border control agency Frontex "will make an official request to Malta to open its ports", he said.

On Thursday, Toninelli said the Italian coastguard would pick up the 224 migrants, including 14 women and four small children, from Lifeline because it was too dangerous for the 32-metre vessel to travel to the Netherlands with so many on board.

He said the coastguard would escort Lifeline to an Italian port, where it would be impounded pending an investigation into its flag status after the Dutch government denied responsibility for the vessel.

Lifeline later published its Dutch registration papers online.

"There is no need for the Italian government to seize the ship for investigations," spokesman Axel Steier said in a statement.

"No port of safety was assigned so far," Steier added. "We call out to the European community, might it be on national or local level, to help find a solution."

While the number of sea arrivals to Italy has dropped dramatically this year - more than 77 per cent from last year - the new government has thrust immigration to the top of the EU's agenda ahead of a summit of leaders next week.

Italy's government, sworn in earlier this month after promising to raise its voice on immigration in Brussels, has sparred with France, Malta and Germany ahead of the meeting.

CAIRO, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark Diocese said Tuesday the Coptic Orthodox Church has been in Egypt since the 1st century AD.

During a meeting with an Italian delegation of tourists visiting places related to the Holy Family route, the Pope said Christianity is fundamental in Egypt, referring to numerous antiquities including Coptic monasteries.

The first monk in the world is St. Anthony who was Egyptian and the first monastery in the world is in Egypt near the Red Sea, he said.

"We thank God that the route of the Holy Family has been guarded since the 1st Century AD by the Church and recently by the Egyptian government and the Ministry of Tourism," he said.

He welcomed the guests saying "We welcome you today in Egypt and in our hearts. Let's remember the visit by Pope Francis last year when we met together in this hall. It was a visit full of blessings to all of Egypt.

"Four years earlier I visited the Vatican and we are always in touch and pledged to pray for each other every night. We will meet again within a few weeks."

CAIRO, June 18, 2018 (MENA) – Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church Ibrahim Isaac received an Italian delegation, as the first group to tour the stops of the Holy Family's route in Egypt.

During the meeting Sunday, Isaac welcomed the delegation and urged them to tell their families and friends about Egypt.

The 50-member group arrived in Cairo Sunday on a five-day visit that was coordinated by Tourism Ministry and the Italian Catholic Church.

The tour will also take them to some places in Cairo and other monasteries.

The Italian delegation is comprised of churchmen and media figures.

VALENCIA, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The Aquarius charity-run rescue ship arrived in the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, a week after Italy refused to let it dock with 629 migrants on board.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered to take the ship in, meaning it had to travel an extra 700 nautical miles after plucking the migrants from unstable boats off the coast of Libya.

There are now 106 migrants on the vessel, after two ships from Italy’s coast guard and navy shared out the passengers to make the long journey safer.

CAIRO, June 17, 2018 (MENA) - Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church Ibrahim Isaac is planned to receive on Sunday an Italian delegation, as the first group to follow up the steps of the route of the Holy Family in Egypt.

Engy Lahzy, the guide to accompany members of the delegation in their visit, said on Saturday that more than 50 people are expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday in a five-day visit. She added that the journey is coordinated between Tourism Ministry and the Italian Catholic Church.

The visit includes visiting some places in Cairo and other monasteries in addition to Pharaonic artifacts, added Lahzy.

The Italian delegation composes of churchmen and media figures.

PARIS, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - French President Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tension with Italy after it criticised its refusal to accept more than 600 migrants on board the Aquarius ship earlier this week, telling the Italian leader no offense was meant.

“The French president emphasised that he never said anything meant to offend Italy and the Italian people,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

Macron told ministers in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday the Italian government had acted cynically and irresponsibly in its refusal to welcome the Aquarius, according to French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

Macron confirmed the two leaders would meet in Paris for a working lunch on Friday.

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