ROME -- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir arrived today to try to convince Italian leaders to support his refusal to trade 'territories for peace' with the Palestinians.
Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti and Israeli Ambassador Mordechai Drory met Shamir at a tightly guarded Leonardo da Vinci Airport, the scene of a Palestinian massacre in December 1985.
Two helicopters hovered overhead while Carabinieri military and airport police with dogs trained to sniff out explosives, army artillery units and sharpshooters were stationed in and around the airport.
Police searched all nearby houses and cleared the area around the airport VIP reception rooms.
The two-day official visit to Italy was Shamir's first trip outside Israel since Dec. 9 when a series of disturbances broke out in the Israeli-occupied territories. More than 50 Palestinians have died in the unprecedented uprising.
Shamir told reporters at a news conference in the Tel Aviv airport that he has never embraced the 'territories for peace' principle endorsed by U.S. officials who have proposed accelerated Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli leader, who will meet with Secretary of State George Shultz next week, said he will try to convince Italian officials to back his position.
Shamir was scheduled to have talks late today at the Quirinal Palace with President Francesco Cossiga, who visited Israel in January, and at the Foreign Ministry with Andreotti before a dinner in his honor. On Tuesday he will confer with Prime Minister Giovanni Goria and parliamentary leaders.
The Israeli Embassy said he also scheduled meetings with political, business and labor leaders but did not plan to meet with Pope John Paul II, who has backed the right of the Palestinians to a homeland.
Shamir said before departing for Italy he was prepared to face criticism in Rome where thousands of demonstrators marched Saturday to demand recognition of Palestinian rights.
'It is true that there are criticisms but this is not the first time Israel has been criticized,' he said. 'You have to confront criticism.
'It is necessary to explain our views and to say to the people of Europe that they must understand the historical context in which Israel is placed and its struggle for independence and sovereignty since its birth,' Shamir said.