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Italy PM says EU draft text on immigration will be withdrawn

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte holds a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

ROME (Reuters) - A draft EU statement on immigration will be withdrawn following a “misunderstanding” over the text, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday after talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Conte had threatened not to attend a gathering of European leaders in Brussels on Sunday to protest against the draft, which, amongst other things, called for asylum seekers to be immediately returned to the EU country they first entered -- often Italy.

“I just got a call from Chancellor Angela Merkel, worried about the possibility that I could not attend the pre-summit on Sunday in Brussels on immigration,” Conte wrote on Facebook, adding he could not accept the draft as it stood.

“The chancellor clarified that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’. The draft text released yesterday will be shelved,” he added, confirming he would now travel to Brussels on Sunday.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer, editing by Steve Scherer