Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has said the trial of two marines in India over the killing of two Indian fishermen has run into new "difficulty" because of upcoming general elections in that country.
"Sometimes it seems that we are the only nation where elections can create problems. (But) they also create trouble in India," Napolitano told marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone during a long-distance video conference.
"A (fast-track) trial had been proposed to us, a proper and swift trial which has now encountered difficulty because we are near the Indian elections," the president was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.
Ahead of Christmas, he also tried to comfort the marines, telling them that the entire country is with them.
Latorre and Girone allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year, sparking diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.
The marines, deployed on board Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie to guard it, say they mistook the fishermen for pirates. They are now staying in the Italian embassy in New Delhi awaiting trial.
Rome wants to try the marines in Italy claiming the incident took place in international waters. However, New Delhi says it has the right to try the Italian naval personnel as the victims were Indian on board an Indian fishing boat.
The investigation of the two marines stalled in recent months over testimony from four witnesses - fellow Italian marines thought to have seen what happened the night when two of their comrades allegedly killed the fishermen.
India wanted to question the four in India. However, Italy had said that was unnecessary because Indian investigators could come to Italy or question the four by video conference.
The problem was overcome in November, when Indian investigators interrogated the witnesses via video conference in the Indian embassy in Rome.