Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rome wants G8 talks in quake town

Italy's cabinet has backed plans by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to move this summer's G8 summit to the earthquake-struck town of L'Aquila.

Other G8 member states would need to back the move.

Italy had previously planned to hold the 8-10 July summit on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

An earthquake on 6 April devastated L'Aquila and the surrounding area, leaving 295 people dead and at least 50,000 homeless.

The decision to back the summit move was made at a cabinet meeting held in L'Aquila.
Military school

Mr Berlusconi said that the 220m euros (£197m) that would have been required for security and infrastructure in La Maddalena, Sardinia, would be better spent on post-earthquake reconstruction.

He said he did not think that anti-globalisation protesters would have what he called the wish or the heart to stage violent demonstrations in an area so badly damaged by an earthquake.

A G8 meeting held in Genoa in 2001 was marred by violence between security forces and protesters.

World leaders could see the damage for themselves, Mr Berlusconi said, and might be persuaded to donate more money.

"The 21 heads of government who come will be able to see first-hand the wounds caused by this earthquake," the Italian leader said at a news conference.

"I think it could work out very well."

On Thursday the cabinet also allocated 8bn euros (£7.2bn) for reconstruction efforts in the central Abruzzo region.

There were already a sufficient number of hotels for conferences, delegations and journalists at the summit, Mr Berlusconi said.

He said the summit could be held in the same military school as the cabinet meeting.

The complex, which includes a barracks and a heliport, was also used for a mass funeral for about 200 victims of the earthquake.