Scalfaro calls for 'new resistance' to Mafia terror

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ROME (AFP) - Italy's President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, called on the nation yesterday to mobilise in 'a new resistance' to the Mafia along the lines of its historic resistance to both fascism and terrorism.

The address was aimed at judges commemorating the anti- Mafia judge Paolo Borsellino, who was blown up on Sunday, along with five police bodyguards, in Palermo. 'No one should quit their job. We must fight against this, grit our teeth and resist. We will need courage, but this is the route we must go down together, whatever the cost,' said Mr Scalfaro, a former resistance fighter.

Democracy, he stressed, was 'stronger than violence, stronger than crime'. But for democracy to work, he said, institutions had to regain credibility.

His statement came as threats of resignations affected several political and judicial institutions in the wake of Borsellino's killing. In response to an announcement by judges in Palermo's anti-Mafia pool that they were quitting their posts, Mr Scalfaro called on all judges to remain 'united'. The President has already appealed to the Palermo Mayor, the former anti-Mafia judge Aldo Rizzo, to reconsider his stated decision to stand down. Borsellino, who was commemorated on Wednesday with full honours, was reprimanded four years ago for having spoken in an interview of the difficulties of his job.

As a first step in the 'resistance' movement, the new Palermo police chief, Matteo Cinque, took office yesterday, replacing Vito Plantone, who was dismissed on Wednesday following disturbances in Palermo cathedral during the funeral service for Borsellino's bodyguards. Mr Cinque, 48, Borsellino's former colleague in Trapani, western Sicily, is well-known for his successful policies against the Mafia in Naples.

Meanwhile the Italian army began carrying out searches yesterday throughout the Corleone area, the territory of the jailed 'godfather' Luciano Liggio, where Liggio's henchman Toto Riina - suspected of carrying out several murders - now holds sway.

Borsellino is due to be buried in a private ceremony this morning, after one of his daughters returns from holiday in Indonesia. The ceremony will take place in Palermo's Santa Luisa parish church with only two official figures present - Mr Scalfaro, who as Interior Minister in 1987, became a colleague and friend of the judge, and the Justice Minister Claudio Martelli, closely involved in the anti-Mafia campaign.

Dozens of Sicilians have risked reprisals to come forward and testify, investigators said yesterday. About 60 women held a hunger strike in a square in the centre of Palermo, in mourning for the killings.

The rigid omerta, or law of silence, has often guaranteed impunity for the Mafia because a lack of witnesses made inquiries impossible. After Borsellino's death, many Sicilians living near where the bomb exploded decided to defy the unwritten code.

Italian investigators, flanked by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation sent by Washington to help with the case, said they were drawing up two photo-fits of men reported to have been seen in the street for four consecutive days before the blast.

(Photograph omitted)