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Anti-War Activists May Try to Disrupt Bush Visit, says Italy's PM - 2004-06-03

Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is warning that anti-war activists may try to disrupt President Bush's visit to Italy. The warning came shortly before the president was due in Italy.

Just hours before the arrival of the President Bush in Rome, Prime Minister Berlusconi said he wants to prevent disruption of the visit by extremists. He said demonstrations would blur the true meaning of the June 4 celebrations, which are intended to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome by allied troops.

Anti-war demonstrations are planned to coincide with the arrival Friday of Mr. Bush who is coming to help celebrate the anniversary. Mr. Berlusconi said Italy can do much better on this day than burn flags.

Mr. Berlusconi says Italy must show the world its hospitality, its maturity and its awareness of history. He says young Italians should know that to free Europe, our American allies paid a huge price in their own blood.

Some of those young Americans, he said, are buried in Italy. John, Charlie, Robert, Ted, Howard, he said, are the names of those youngsters who were 20, 22 and 25 years old and gave their lives so Italians can have their freedom.

He said Italy is linked to the United States by historic ties. Millions of Italians, he said, found work and fulfilled their dreams there.

Mr. Berlusconi also vigorously defended his government's decision to send Italian troops to Iraq on what he said was a mission of peace. He said withdrawing the troops now would be a grave mistake, because it would mean caving in to terrorists and lead to a long civil war in Iraq.

He said it is the duty of Italians is to welcome Mr. Bush as a leader of a great nation and a close ally.

Mr. Berlusconi says through him Italians will say their thanks to the American people whom Mr. Bush represents for what U.S. soldiers did on June 4, 1944 for Italy and its freedom.