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Italy official proposes anti-terror rules
Updated: 2005-07-13 10:25

Terrorism is "knocking on Italy's door" and parliament should adopt tougher measures, including allowing police to detain suspects longer without charge, the interior minister said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu unveiled the package to parliament amid increased fears of a terrorist attack in Italy after Thursday's bombings in London.

The measures would include giving police greater investigative powers and incentives for those helping investigators bring down terrorist cells.

Pisanu proposed that police be able to hold suspects without charge for 24 hours for identification purposes, double the time currently allowed. He also called for greater surveillance of cell phones, suggesting a directory of mobile phone users, as well as the strengthening of judicial provisions for terrorism-linked offenses.

"Today, after the massacres in Madrid and London, I must say that terrorism is even knocking on Italy's door, as well as on (the door of) other European countries," Pisanu told lawmakers.

Although there are not specific indications of a terrorist attack, he said "the evaluation of converging circumstances and clues pushes us to consider it possible."

Internet threats, including one posted in a claim of responsibility for the bombings in London, have mentioned Italy as a possible target. Adding to the concerns of the U.S. ally in the Iraqi war is the fact the two European countries hit by major attacks so far Spain in March 2004 and Britain both supported the U.S.-led campaign.

A poll published Tuesday in Corriere della Sera showed 82 percent of Italians believe there is a risk of attack in their country, while 10 percent said there is no risk and the remaining 8 percent said they did not know. The poll was conducted by the ISPO institute Friday and Saturday and had a margin of error of between 2.5 and 4.5 percentage points.

Italian authorities raised their alert level and tightened security across the country after the London explosions that killed at least 52 people.

Pisanu said 750 extra officials would be deployed in the next few days to reinforce local police. Security was boosted especially at ports and railway stations, which he said appeared "rather vulnerable even to medium-sized terror attacks."

Pisanu is planning to be in Brussels on Wednesday to attend emergency talks of EU justice and interior ministers to assess the bloc's security measures after the London bombings.

He is expected to present more specific provisions to the Italian parliament in the upcoming days and is seeking cross-party support for the security package.

"Against Islamic terrorism we must avoid divisions and seek common course instead," he said.

Most in the center-left opposition applauded the interior minister's address, praising it as "reasonable" and "democratically sound."

"It was a wise speech," said opposition leader Romano Prodi, a former premier and former EU Commission president. "He shares our same concern, which is the concern of all Italians: dealing with terrorism in the most effective way."

Pisanu vowed that extra measures would not impinge on civil liberties, and that his proposals would leave legal and judicial guarantees intact.

The interior minister also devoted part of his speech to illegal immigration, which Italian authorities say provides profit to international terrorists as well as fertile ground for recruitment.

Pisanu said that particular attention had been given to monitoring illegal immigrants already under investigation, and that this monitoring could lead to the expulsion of suspects from Italy. He added that controls along Italy's northern and northeastern borders were also being stepped up.

However, he stressed that the threat of a terrorist attack should not be confused with the "Islamic religion, culture, and civilization."

The Northern League, a party that is part of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition, demanded tougher measures and a "zero-tolerance" approach.

On Monday, Pisanu traveled to Libya to discuss measures against terrorism and illegal immigration with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi part of Rome's long-standing efforts to stop the flow of migrants from northern Africa to Europe.

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