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Italy PM firm over NATO summit

Berlusconi
Berlusconi: 'Italy cannot renounce such an important summit'  


ROME, Italy - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has indicated a controversial NATO meeting will go ahead as planned in Naples.

City mayor Rosa Russo Jervolino had called for the conference to be postponed, citing security fears in the wake of the G8 riots in Genoa in which one protester was killed.

And international pressure continues to grow on Italian authorities over the G8 violence after the country's police chief admitted some officers used excessive force.

Berlusconi told reporters on Thursday "We realise that Italy cannot renounce holding on its territory such an important summit.

"We are going to try to hold the summit in a way that there will be no incidents."

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The two-day conference, scheduled to begin on September 26, will host NATO's 19 defence ministers and is expected to focus on U.S. plans to develop a missile defence system.

The U.S. plan to build a system capable of shooting down incoming missiles has angered some NATO countries as it would also mean ripping up the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- a key agreement in preventing arms proliferation.

Washington says the system -- initially called National Missile Defense -- is needed to deter what it refers to as "rogue nations" from launching intercontinental missile attacks.

Jervolino has received support from fellow centre-left politicians in her call to get the meeting postponed.

She told La Republica newspaper: "Putting it off would be opportune as we run the risk of massive protests."

And the UK broadsheet, The Times, quoted her saying: "I have no intention of seeing Naples turned into a military fortress like Genoa and then destroyed by anarchists."

The Genoa G8 summit of the world's leading industrial nations and Russia turned into a major embarrassment for Italy and its police force.

As with similar international meetings fro Prague to Seattle thousands of protesters were in the city campaigning for a raft of causes and among them a small element of violent protesters.

But police received heavy criticism in the aftermath of the rioting for heavy-handed tactics and the death of one protester shot by a police officer.

Austria and the U.S. are the latest countries to express concern at the treatment of their citizens who were in Genoa to protest.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Rome said further representation could be made to the Italian government if it appeared U.S. citizens, four of whom are still being held, were being denied their rights.

Austria has expressed anger that members of a theatre group arrested shortly after the summit ended are still being held.

The 16 prisoners' Austrian lawyer has alleged that the men were violently abused during their arrest while women were subjected to psychological abuse and harassment.






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