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RIMINI, Italy (Reuters) - The European Union will issue new immigration policy proposals by the end of October, Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Sunday, responding to Italy's plea for more coordinated EU action.
"We will have a first proposal from the EU with regard to distribution criteria for immigration flows among the 27 (EU member states)," Bildt said on the sidelines of a conference at the Italian seaside town of Rimini.
The foreign minister of Italy, a country where thousands of migrants land each year after perilous journeys across the Mediterranean from Africa, said earlier in the day the problem must not be left to countries on the bloc's edges.
"We must consider this a European problem. The EU has made many statements ... but has not yet said just what should happen when a group of migrants reaches the borders of Europe," Franco Frattini told a news conference.
On Thursday Italian authorities found a boat carrying five Eritrean migrants who said 73 others had died during the crossing.
"All we Europeans, all 27 countries, must bear responsibility for these people," Frattini said.
Bildt said the European Commission would issue a policy draft in time for a scheduled EU foreign ministers meeting at the end of October.
This would only be a first step, he said, since "such a big problem cannot be solved in a single meeting." Sweden assumed the 6-month EU presidency in July.
Italy has asked Malta to let it take over sea rescues in some Maltese waters, saying the tiny EU island state was incapable of doing the job properly. On Saturday Malta rejected the proposal.
Frattini said talks with Malta must continue, perhaps involving other countries.
"We continue to believe the talks which have been going on for 10 years with Malta over that area of sea are indispensable for the whole international community," Frattini said.
Some 36,900 illegal immigrants arrived in Italy by boat last year, a rise of 75 percent from 2007, according to the Interior Ministry.
Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Robin Pomeroy