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UEFA to investigate crowd clashes

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ROME, Italy -- Rome's top public security official denied police used excessive force at Wednesday's Champions League match between AS Roma and Manchester United and blamed violent English fans for starting the trouble.

His comments come as European soccer's top governing body opened an investigation into the clashes that left 18 fans -- 14 English and four Italians -- injured during the evening.

United and their fans complained about what they said were "indiscriminate beatings" meted out by Italian police.

But Rome's Prefect Achille Serra, the government official responsible for public security, told Reuters the entire episode lasted only two minutes during which police were forced to intervene after English fans trampled past stewards.

"The attack was started by the English fans -- by a part of the English fans, we're not generalising -- a group of the violent ones," he said.

"The other day, Bayern Munich came to Milan. And nothing happened. And a few days ago, Lyon came and nothing happened. A while ago, Valencia came, and nothing happened. The Ukrainians came, and nothing happened," he said.

"Perhaps some English groups that sometimes create problems in Italy and sometimes create problems abroad should examine their own conscience."

Serra earlier told ANSA news agency three English fans had been held for disorderly conduct inside Rome's Olympic Stadium.

The British Embassy, which said it was worried about the situation, confirmed 11 United fans had been taken to hospital after the game, which Rome won 2-1. Two were kept in overnight.

Italian and British police are working together to figure out the right version of events, Italy's interior ministry said.

In a statement UEFA said it was "currently gathering evidence and will be studying the official reports of the referee, delegate and security officer in detail before announcing any further action."

Examine incidents

In England, Manchester United called on the British government to examine the incidents surrounding the trouble.

"Distressing scenes witnessed in the Stadio Olimpico last night shocked everyone at Old Trafford," the club said, urging supporters who attended the game to provide evidence. "In what the club views as a severe over-reaction, local police handed out indiscriminate beatings to United supporters.

"In these circumstances, neither Manchester United nor AS Roma is able to call the police to account."

Trouble inside the stadium began after Roma took the lead just before halftime when rival fans traded insults and threw objects from one section of the ground to the other.

Television pictures showed Italian police lashing out at United supporters with batons, leaving several bleeding heavily from head wounds.

One policeman was shown raining blows on a supporter who lay motionless on the ground.

"The police just went in indiscriminately hitting anyone and everybody, it didn't matter whether they were old people, young people, men, women, whatever, they just hit everyone," United fan Mick Thorne told Reuters TV.

One United supporters' club said it would complain to UEFA and asked fans for eyewitness accounts of the clashes.

"The Italian police were stationed on our side of the fence, in attack formation against United fans, in a way that only made sense if they were trying to protect the Roma fans from us," the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association said on its Web site (www.imusa.org).

"There is something very wrong here and IMUSA aims to get to the bottom of it."


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