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Merkel and Macron pledge Italy help

Rome - More than 100,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the year, and 84 per cent have arrived in Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

"We are and we want to be supportive towards Italy," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a three-way meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Merkel praised Italy's "fantastic" efforts on migrant reception, and urged collective EU action against human traffickers, to stabilize Libya and foster economic growth in the migrants' countries of origin.

Macron issued a similar message, but made a distinction between people with legitimate claims for asylum, such as war refugees from Syria, and so-called economic migrants.

More effort

While France will do more to welcome refugees, "we cannot take in men and women who try to come to our countries for economic reasons," Macron said.

Gentiloni, Merkel and Macron met in the north-eastern Italian city of Trieste ahead of a summit with countries of the Western Balkans, focused on their regional cooperation and EU accession hopes.

In recent weeks, Italian calls for more EU burden sharing on migration have grown louder.

On Tuesday, the bloc's border agency Frontex said "Italy is facing extraordinary pressure and needs additional support from the EU and Frontex."

Frontex accepted a call to create a working group on Rome's request for migrants rescued at sea to be taken not only to Italian ports.