Italian PM's plan to tackle rubbish crisis hit by protests

Plans by Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to deal with the rubbish piling up on Naples streets ran into trouble Friday, as locals clashed with police in a bid to stop the opening of a new dump.

Three protestors and six police officers were injured during the demonstration, reported AFP according ANSA news agency.

The violence broke out at Chiaiano, on the northwestern outskirts of Naples, as about 1,000 protestors tried to block access to one of the new dumps Berlusconi had designated to deal with the crisis.

Demonstrators tried to set fire to a bus and hurled rocks at police who staged a baton charge and fired tear gas in a bid to end the protests.

Police said seven demonstrators were arrested and an AFP photographer said some demonstrators suffered minor injuries.

The tensions eased just before midnight, according to police. But a correspondent for Rai public television, Romolo Sticchi, said he was hit by a police officer who took his camera, ANSA news agency reported.

"A reaction of this type was predictable, I understand it, but it is in the interests of everyone to end this national tragedy," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni was quoted as saying by ANSA.

Berlusconi ordered the opening of about 10 new dumps, which are to be guarded by the army, as part of a package of measures to try to resolve the dispute.

He announced the meaures after a special meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday, held in Naples to show solidarity with local people over the crisis.

Although the official list of dumps was only meant to be released on Saturday, Chiaiano was one of the designated sites, ANSA reported. The town had also been chosen by the last government to host a waste dump, which had also provoked protests.

But Berlusconi warned Wednesday the new dumps would be declared military zones and protected as such.

"Blockade actions organised by minorities will not be tolerated," he said. Anyone who violently demonstrated against the new dumps could face jail terms of up to five years, he added.

Berlusconi's emergency package also included the mobilisation of 200 doctors to monitor health issues connected with the crisis.

The cabinet also appointed a new junior minister -- Guido Bertolaso, currently civil security chief -- whose only job will be resolving the rubbish crisis, ANSA reported.

The European Commission has already expressed scepticism at Berlusconi's measures. A Commission spokeswoman expressed doubt Thursday that the new measures addressed the underlying structural problems.

Many landfills in the region are controlled by the Camorra mafia, which has a lucrative business handling waste illegally from other regions and which opposes new incinerators.

The Commission filed a lawsuit with an EU court against Italy earlier this month.

It said the previous government had not taken adequate measures to tackle the mountains of rubbish on the streets of Naples and the surrounding region of Campania. Much will depend on ASEAN. Observers have described the "ASEAN mechanism" as a "face-saving badge" for Myanmar's military.

"The face-saving formula is that ASEAN will coordinate the natural relief effort," said one UN official. "But clearly ASEAN doesn't have the capability to provide the technical expertise so we need international aid workers in the delta."

Whether Myanmar allows an influx of foreign aid workers, as Than Shwe has indicated, with access to the hardest hit cyclone areas, will determine if the conference in a success.

"This is really make or break for ASEAN," said Sarah Ireland, the regional director for Oxfam.

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