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Italy's radicals raise clone debate

Emma Bonino
Radical Party leader Emma Bonino went on a five day hunger strike  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Minority parties in Italy are seeking to raise issues largely ignored by mainstream politics in campaigning for this Sunday's general election.

The Radical Party wants to turn the spotlight on euthanasia, therapeutic cloning and freedom of scientific research.

But CNN's Alessio Vinci says these are issues that neither of the two main candidates for prime minister have addressed.

As voting day approaches, Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right House of Liberties coalition is maintaining a clear lead in opinion polls over Francesco Rutelli's centre-left Olive Tree Alliance.

The Radical Party, lead by former European Union commissioner Emma Bonino, has already successfully campaigned to legalise abortion and divorce in Catholic Italy.

Bonino, in a protest against lack of media access, last week went on a five-day hunger strike.

She said: "Because these are issues that go through all the coalitions, so they are very much disturbing.

"Neither Berlusconi nor Rutelli want to be disturbed. so the expulsion from the media of the radicals is simply instrumental."

To call more attention to the issue of free scientific research, the Radical party is running Luca Coscioni for parliament. He is a former marathon runner and university professor who in 1995 developed a severe form of sclerosis.

Coscioni is campaigning for a change to Italy's laws on stem cell research, which some scientists believe could speed cures to Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and even some forms of cancer.

Stem cell research is currently allowed -- with restrictions -- in much of Europe and in the United States, but prohibited in Italy.

The Radicals position has infuriated the Catholic Church. Monsignor Elio Greccia, said: "(It is) the destruction of human embryos.

"Even if they are used to cure other human individuals, it represents ... a murder of human individuals, even if at an embryo phase, and it represents a sort of human cannibalism."

Right wing parties are attempting to focus on illegal immigration and linking it with rising crime.

The mayor of Altivole in northeastern Italy, Gino Dalese, said: "Six or seven years ago, before the immigrants arrived, we had no crime. Now our cars get broken into and our houses get burgled."

Silvi Berlusconi feels the heat on the campaign trail  

Rightist national alliance leader Gianfranco Fini has questioned why immigrants have to be brought in to fill northern Italy's vacancies when unemployment in the south of the country stands at a high 20 percent.

A United Nations report last year calculated Italy needed to take in nine million immigrants over the next 25 years to keep its workforce at a viable level.

Berlusconi's party published its manifesto on Monday, promising tax cuts, more jobs and stronger economic growth.

The 85-page document included pledges to lighten Italy's tax burden by 70 trillion lire ($32 billion) and create 1.5 million jobs over five years.

Rutelli's party published its election pledges in April, promising broadly similar goals, including tax cuts, tougher law and order and institutional reform.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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May 2, 2001
Berlusconi: a coalition to last
April 26, 2001
Death threats rock Italian campaign
April 21, 2001
Italy kicks off election campaign
April 12, 2001
Italy braced for pre-election bombs
April 11, 2001

Italian Parliament

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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