Berlusconi wants summits in Italy moved to avert violence

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The Independent Online

Italy is trying to avoid a repetition of last month's mayhem in Genoa by banishing a planned summit from Rome to Africa, and switching another meeting to a heavily fortified army base.

With the battle of Genoa fresh in his mind, the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, wants to spare Rome from similar trouble. He wants the World Food Summit, proposed for the Italian capital in November, moved to Africa.

"I don't want to see our cities smashed and burnt, and in such circumstances I tend to behave like a good father to his family," Mr Berlusconi told the Rome daily La Republicca.

The Italian government is also taking precautions over a Nato defence ministers' meeting scheduled for next month in the centre of Naples. This will now be moved to the safest possible place, the Pozzuoli military base on the city's fringes.

So frightened was Mr Berlusconi's government about the security of this Nato gathering that it had even considered ducking its obligations and asking another member state to play host. Ministers of the alliance are expected to discuss controversial American plans for missile defence, possibly provoking violent protests.

But the Italian Defence Minister, Antonio Martino, pleaded for courage. "It would be a certifiable surrender on the part of Italy if it were not to make itself available to hold the meeting of military heads and defence ministers," Mr Martino said.

The fate of the food summit, staged by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, which has its headquarters in Rome, is uncertain. The venue might be moved to Senegal, home country of the FAO's head, Jacques Diouf. Three other African countries – Ghana, South Africa and Kenya – are also believed to be in the running. The summit is expected to conclude with an appeal for a $500m (£340m) world food fund.

Italy's staging of the G8 summit in Genoa last month was widely criticised. Despite the wanton behaviour of police they failed to maintain order. One protester was killed by a police bullet, 300 people were injured, and more than 200 protesters, some demonstrably peaceful, were arrested.

But as recent events in other countries attest, it is increasingly difficult to forestall violent clashes at international summits. Officials in Washington DC view their IMF and World Bank annual meeting next month with trepidation. The expected 100,000 anti-globalists will face a two-mile-long fence, 9ft high, in the heart of the city, and 3,000 extra police from other American cities to help maintain order.

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