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Berlusconi Wants G8 Summit Moved to Earthquake City


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he wants to move this summer's Group of Eight summit to the site of this month's deadly earthquake to give the devastated region an economic boost.

The Italian government is hoping to hold the July summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in the earthquake-stricken city of L'Aquila and no longer as planned in Sardinia.

Parliament approves decision

The decision, which could affect more than two years of planning for the event, was given the green light at a cabinet meeting on Thursday held in L'Aquila. It is dependent on approval from other nations attending the summit. But the Italian prime minister appeared determined to change the venue.

Prime Minister Berlusconi said that holding the July 8-10 summit on the Mediterranean island of La Maddalena was expected to cost some $287 million for security and infrastructure. He said that money was better spent on reconstruction efforts in the central Italian region of Abruzzo.

"What location would be more appropriate than a land wounded by the earthquake?" the prime minister asked.

Can region accomodate visitors?

Berlusconi said there were already sufficient hotels for delegations, conference venues and areas for journalists in the region.

However, it was not clear how thousands expected for the summit would be accommodated, in what is at present a devastated city of collapsed buildings and rubble.

Some politicians doubted a G8 summit could be moved in such a short time and that Berlusconi would not be able to pull it off.

The prime minister also spoke about security, saying that he doubted anti-globalization demonstrators would come to L'Aquila to protest.

"I doubt they will have the desire, face and heart to come here and demonstrate." he said.

First-hand look at damage

Berlusconi said the 21 heads of government who will come for the summit would be able to see first hand the wounds caused by this earthquake. He said the government has made a list of 44 sites of artistic values that foreign countries can "adopt." He said G8 leaders would be shown the sites when they come to L'Aquila.

The April 6 quake in the central region of Abruzzo killed more than 290 people, flattened entire areas of some towns and made some 65,000 people homeless.

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