Italian police act on unrest

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The Independent Online
ITALY'S police are on full alert for fear of further attempts to destabilise the country following serious allegations against President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. Police leave has been cancelled.

'In this atmosphere someone might try to aggravate the tension,' said the police chief, Vincenzo Parisi, yesterday. Police are keeping watch for bombs, civil unrest or suspect activities.

In another sign of concern about attempts to stir up trouble, the Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, reacted to stifle rumours that the President was about to resign, which sent the Italian bond and stock markets plunging.

'They are false reports, put about with criminal intent,' Mr Ciampi said. 'Every hypothesis of a political and institutional crisis is most drastically ruled out. The situation . . . is one of complete normality.' He announced that the government had asked magistrates to prosecute those responsible for the rumours.

The jumpiness is prompted by the general suspicion that the allegations made against the President for supposedly taking illicit payments from SISDE, the civilian secret service, were part of a conspiracy to topple him, prevent elections and derail Italy's political revolution.

The leaders of the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, and the former Communist Party, Achille Occhetto, both proposed on Thursday that they and the Christian Democrats - currently the three biggest parties - get together to ensure that the political revolution would continue.

The cabinet yesterday approved an urgent bill for radical reform of the SISDE and its military counterpart, SISMI, both of which are in disrepute. The Chamber of Deputies will discuss the bill on Tuesday.