Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Italian PM pledges all-out effort on organized crime

ENDEMIC PROBLEM Naples and southern Italy more generally are poorer than the rest of the country and have been plagued by crime syndicates for 200 years

AFP , NAPLES

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Thursday pledged a "national effort" to fight organized crime in Naples, which is reeling from a wave of murders.

"Legality and the application of the law is the government's main objective. An effort by the entire country and all its institutions is necessary," he said, while ruling out the use of the army or emergency legislation.

"For now it is not necessary to send the army," Prodi said after meeting with local security officials.

The Naples area, which has recorded 12 murders in 10 days, is not in a "particular state of emergency," he told a news conference.

"If legality does not triumph, Naples will remain immobilized. We must help it emerge from the tunnel," Prodi said. "And we have the moral and operational capacity to achieve it."

Prodi said Interior Minister Giuliano Amato would unveil a detailed plan and "operational modalities" during a visit to the southern city on Friday.

"Crime is a major obstacle to economic development in the south of the country," he noted.

The prime minister also proposed working with youths in schools to lower the dropout rate and building more social centers.

Yet another bloody incident occurred early on Thursday, when a 34-year-old man was attacked in the old city of Naples, according to the ANSA news agency, which said he was in serious condition in hospital.

"No one understands what is happening, why things degenerated so fast," said Tonia Valvano, a vendor selling paintings in a Naples shopping street following the spate of killings, many apparently linked to Naples' Comorra Mafia.

"I've been in Naples for 40 years and have never seen such a tense situation. I don't feel at ease when I'm out," she told reporters.

The government has already said it will send at least 1,000 police reinforcements from next Friday to bolster the 13,000-strong security force in the southern city, but has so far ruled out sending soldiers.

A shopkeeper, Emma, said angrily: "You'd think it's all right by them [the government] that there's the Mafia and chaos. The north of Italy has always trampled on the south, so why would that change?"

Southern Italy is poorer than the rest of the country and has been plagued by crime syndicates for nearly 200 years.

Unemployment in Naples was around 17 percent lat year, compared with a national rate of 7.7 percent. Among 15 to 24-year-olds, it was 40 percent in the Naples area and 24 percent nationally, according to official figures.

Fabio Piscini, a 26-year-old taxi driver, faulted a recent amnesty law, which he called "a huge mistake."

Under the law, 1,321 people were released from Naples prisons over the past few months. Another 1,392 were released from other prisons in the surrounding Campania region.

Two of those murdered in the latest crime wave had been freed under the amnesty, a fact pointed out by the anti-Camorra chief prosecutor Franco Roberti.

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