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Italy Warns Terrorist Attack Risk is Real

Italy's interior minister warned Thursday that the risk of a terrorist attack is real and has forced the country into an intense and prolonged state of alarm. His warning came as he presented a package of tougher anti-terrorism measures to the Italian upper house of parliament.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told members of parliament's upper house that Italy is facing an intense and prolonged threat of a terrorist attack in the wake of the London bombings.

He was presenting a package of tough new anti-terror measures in parliament, which was approved by the cabinet last week.

The measures allow police to detain suspects for up to 24 hours, ease restrictions on Internet and phone surveillance and clear the way for DNA samples to be taken without consent. They also make it a crime to train people to prepare or use explosives without government authorization and offer incentives for those who provide authorities with information about terrorist activities.

Many of the measures came into effect immediately but are subject to ratification by parliament. A vote in the upper house could take place on Friday.

Mr. Pisanu told senators that although there is no specific evidence of an attack, the risk of one taking place in Italy is real. He said that converging circumstances and clues lead him to believe that an attack in Italy is possible.

The interior minister stressed that there is no clash in civilization and that the threat of Islamic terrorism should not be confused with the religion, culture and civilization. He said that dialogue must continue with moderate Muslims.

He said Italian action to combat terrorism is in three directions.

"These are the defense of the targets considered by the national committee of public security to be the most exposed, the control of areas from which terror threats can emerge and the close monitoring of immigrants who are already being investigated," he said.

Parliament's upper house Wednesday approved a bill to give the armed forces powers normally reserved for the police, allowing soldiers to search suspects and vehicles. It was the latest measure approved to combat Italy's fears of a terrorist attack.

A poll published this week by the daily Corriere della Sera found 85 percent of Italians think a terror attack could take place within weeks or months.

Silvio Berlusconi
Premier Silvio Berlusconi also said Thursday a terror attack was possible. He said a possible terror attack looms over us, but we're doing everything we can through our secret services. We are on maximum alert.

The prime minister urged cooperation with moderate Muslims. He also said that having troops in Iraq had nothing to do with the threat of a terror attack in Italy and that countries that didn't have troops there had also been attacked.