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Genoa sets its security barricades as G8 summit approaches

Latest from the corporate wire (AFP) on the security measures for Genoa, the "Forbidden City".
GENOA, Italy, July 10 (AFP) -

With less than two weeks to go before the G8 summit from July 20-22, the Italian city of Genoa is preparing at least as much for the protestors as the heads of state and government taking part.

The image of a besieged port city amid fears that anti-globalisation protestors will overrun it has been fuelled by reports that most of the G8 leaders will retreat to ships to sleep at night.

Tension has mounted too with the increasing number of identity checks being carried out, and the need for "red zone" passes to reach the summit -- an effort to reduce the danger of attacks or anarchist graffiti.

For Massimiliano Morettini, a member of the Genoa Social Forum, one of hundreds of anti-globalisation groups taking part in a counter-summit, the police preparations are bordering on paranoia.

"They are telling us not to be in Genoa during the summit. It's like telling Berliners to leave the city while the Wall comes down," he said.

The counter-summit entitled "Another World is Possible" begins in Genoa on Monday July 16 and 100,000 people are expected to take part in a mass demonstration on Saturday July 21.

But with other images fresh in the public mind -- those of the riots at the EU summit in Gothenburg -- it is unclear how security will keep unruly elements away from demonstration.

All the more so given that the birth place of Christopher Columbus is a web of tiny streets.

In preparation, heavy black and white concrete barriers have been erected, marking the outer security perimeter of the "forbidden city".

Workers armed with welders have sealed the ventilator shafts of historic buildings occupied by many of the city's banks with metal plates and manhole covers have been plugged.

However there has been some relaxing of the draconian measures initially put in place by the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi.

One of the city's train stations, at Brignole, was re-opened on June 30, as was a motorway. The noose around the so-called "yellow zone", the outer security ring, was also loosened.

For the Italian public, Genoa has become a symbol of the debate surrounding the merits, problems and future of globalisation.

Microphones and editorial columns have been opened to celebrities like Rigoberto Menchu, the 1992 Nobel prize winner, who have come to defend the people, or Don Gallo, a charismatic Catholic calling for a "globalisation showing more solidarity".

The number of associations rallying along with the Genoa Social Forum has climbed to around 1,000, including groups as diverse as Catholic missionaries, the World Wide Fund for Nature or the leftist Italian "White Tunics".

For the moment, the palm trees the city hall imported from Egypt for the occasion and the 100 million euros (85 million dollars) spent on improvement works have been forgotten.

Other, parallel, events like concerts and a fashion parade have also been cancelled.

The centre-left mayor of Genoa, Giuseppe Pericu, has no regrets though.

"It's so that the demonstrators who protest against AIDS and poverty won't be challenged by those out to have a good time," he said.

Italy holds the rotating presidency of the G8, which
comprises the seven richest industrialised nations -- including Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and the United States -- as well as Russia.

The leaders are scheduled to discuss poverty and debt reduction, the environment, and preventing wider conflicts in Macedonia and the Middle East.



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