South Indian Communicates Chikungunya To Italy

New Delhi: The health officials stated that an unnamed chikungunya-infected tourist, visiting relatives in Castiglione town of Italy’s Ravenna region, from south India has been found responsible for the spread of the tropical disease in the region.

Experts from the European Centre for Disease Control told, “Just before visiting Italy, the Indian tourist travelled across Kerala, one of the worst affected states with chikungunya, where he was bitten and infected by the local Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes.”

Fault under Adriatic Sea might bring Italy into contact with Croatia

Fault under Adriatic Sea might bring Italy into contact with CroatiaWashington, Jan 27: A new study has identified a fault running under the Adriatic Sea, which could bring Italy into contact with Croatia by closing up the sea in about 50 to 70 million years.

The new fault spans at least 124 miles (200 kilometers) along the seafloor northwest of Dubrovnik in southern Croatia.

It runs under the Dalmatians, which consist of 1,185 islands off Croatia's coast.

Tainted wine for sale in Italy

Rome - Authorities in Italy suspect some 70 million litres of cheap wine on sale in local shops and supermarkets could contain illegal, harmful substances, a weekly magazine reported Friday.

And in a separate report that threatens to harm the image of one of Italy's most prized vintages, L'Espresso magazine also said a probe is underway on an alleged scam to mislead consumers by falsely labelling bottles.

But Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro played down the reports saying that the investigations showed Italy has "serious controls in place and we can demonstrate this with the facts."

New-kid-on-the-block Veltroni challenges Berlusconi

Rome - Italy seems to need a serious image overhaul ahead of its polls. Pictures of rotting rubbish piles in Naples and football hooligans rampaging in Rome have appeared on TV screens around the world as have reports of tainted Italian mozzarella and wine.

Silvio Berlusconi and Walter Veltroni, the main contenders in the April 13-14 elections, have both pledged to redeem the country's reputation.

However, they have shied away from suggesting solutions to Italy's deeper problems - public debt, people's diminishing buying power and the economy's decade-long near-zero growth rate and faltering competitiveness.

Italy's convoluted electoral law

Rome - It has drawn condemnation from the country's Catholic bishops, and even the parliamentarian who penned Italy's electoral law has described it as a "porcata" - a term which can be politely translated as "a load of rubbish."

Although widely seen as a source of government instability because of the influence it grants smaller political parties, the electoral law has remained in place for the country's April 13-14 elections.

The law allocates seats on a proportional basis, taking into account national results in the Chamber of Deputies lower house of parliament and regional results in the upper house Senate.

Sip precious wines and swim with the devil in southern Tuscany

Montelpulciano, Italy - Visiting the ruins of the San Galgano Abbey during a full moon prompts most visitors to forget the cliches associated with modern horror movies.

Those unable to do so will inevitably notice the odd shape lurking in the dark on the carved stones, waiting to step out from behind every column.

The eerie scene makes nightly visits to the abbey less than popular. But a swift glance at the parking spaces outside the ruined abbey makes it clear that this is a hot spot during the high tourist season.

Ex-terrorist arrested in Italy for attacks on Islamic targets

Milan, Italy  - Italian police on Thursday arrested a former extreme-left wing terrorist in connection with a string of arson and other attacks on Islamic targets in northern Italy, news reports said.

Roberto Sandalo was taken into custody following an arrest warrant issued against him by Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli, the ANSA news agency reported.

The arrest stems from an investigation on attacks against several cultural centres and places of worship used by Muslim in Italy's northern Lombardy region. No one was hurt in the attacks.

Sandalo was first arrested in 1980 as a member of the Prima Linea (Front Line) Marxist group which carried out several politically motivated murders during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Berlusconi aide named in election fraud probe

Rome, ItalyRome - A close aide to Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi has been linked to an alleged attempt to rig votes in Italy's general elections, news reports said Saturday.

Marcello Dell'Utri allegedly discussed the possibility of tampering 50,000 ballots to favour Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party, according to the reports citing a dossier submitted to Italy's interior minister.

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato on Friday confirmed he received the dossier from prosecutors in the southern city of Reggio Calabria.

Palermo beat Catania in Sicily derby

Milan - Palermo edged Catania 1-0 Saturday clinching a second straight win that helped them forget four consecutive defeats.

The diminutive Fabrizio Miccoli came on in the second half and on 84 minutes drilled a swerving free kick to the left of a stunned Ciro Polito, who had managed a couple of good saves for Catania earlier in the game.

Palermo last weekend snatched a last-gasp 3-2 win over Juventus and are now almost certain to remain in the top flight.

Catania also did well a week ago, crushing Napoli 3-0, but the defeat in the regional derby held them dangerously close to the three-team relegation zone.

Italians begin to vote in general election

Italy ElectionsRome - Polls opened across Italy on Sunday morning for the first day of parliamentary elections.

Voting in which some 50 million Italians are eligible to cast ballots, was scheduled to continue until 10 pm (2000 GMT) and again on Monday from 8 am to 3 pm (1300 GMT).

Preliminary results were expected by Monday evening.

Centre-right opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi and former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni of the centre-left Democratic Party are the main contenders in the race which comes just two years after Italy's last parliamentary poll.

Italians begin to vote in general election

Italians begin to vote in general electionRome  - Polls opened across Italy on Sunday morning for the first day of parliamentary elections.

Voting in which some 50 million Italians are eligible to cast ballots, was scheduled to continue until 10 pm (2000 GMT) and again on Monday from 7 am to 3 pm (0500-1300 GMT).

By noon Sunday, four hours after polls opened, some 15.5 per cent of voters had cast their ballot, the Interior Ministry said. Preliminary results were expected by Monday evening.

Italians continue voting on last election day

Italy ElectionsRome  - Polls reopened in Italy on Monday morning in the second and last day of general elections.

Voting was scheduled to continue until the closing of polls at 3 pm (1300 GMT). Preliminary results were expected by Monday evening.

The first day of voting on Sunday registered a dip in voter turnout with around 63 per cent of the 50 million eligible casting their ballots. In the last election in 2006, the first-day turnout was 67 per cent.

Resilient Berlusconi is back

Italy ElectionsRome - Silvio Berlusconi triumphed Monday for a third time in Italian elections - his fifth since turning to politics - defying those who view the billionaire-turned-politician as a 71-year-old has-been.

His return as prime minister, two years after he last held the post, promises to put one of Europe's most colourful, controversial and politically longevous leaders back on the world stage.

"People like me for what I am, and I'm not a politician," says Berlusconi, who once compared himself to Jesus Christ.

Berlusconi won a comfortable edge over his centre-left rival, Walter Veltroni, in both branches of parliament.

Hemingway's Venice bar offers Americans "special" discount

Venice, Italy  - Farewell to Arms and hello to alms: Author Ernest Hemingway's favourite watering-hole in Venice is offering "poor" US patrons an extended "Happy Hour".

"Harry's Bar of Venice in an effort to make American victims of sub-prime loans happier has decided to give them a special 20 per cent discount on all the items of the menu," says a sign posted in English on the door.

While the sign refers to the home-loan repayment crisis that has hit many middle and lower-income families in the United States, Harry's Bar's owner Arrigio Cipriani admits most of those who drink and dine at his high-end establishment fall into a different income bracket.

EU commissioner Frattini to be made Italy foreign minister

Rome - The European Union's top justice commissioner, Franco Frattini, is to become foreign minister in the next Italian government, prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday.

"The foreign minister will be someone who already has great experience. He is Franco Frattini," Berlusconi said in a late night post-election round of interviews with Italian broadcasters.

Frattini, 51, held the post for two years in the second Berlusconi government, between 2002 and 2004.

Veltroni supporter in Germany welcomes two-party outcome

ItalyBerlin - Laura Garavini, 41, a Berlin-based Italian who campaigned among Italians abroad for a seat in parliament, welcomed Tuesday the new two-party set-up in Italy, even though her own side, Walter Veltroni's Democratic Party, lost.

Garavini was still waiting to see if she had gained a seat, since the postal ballots for the 12 lower-chamber and 6 senate seats reserved for Italians abroad had still not been fully counted when she spoke.

The allocation of seats for Italians abroad will not alter the overall result. She said the Democratic Party's defeat was "bitter."

Berlusconi to announce new cabinet "by end of the week"

Italy ElectionsRome - Italy prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi was focusing Tuesday on the composition of his new cabinet after securing a convincing victory in the country's general election.

"I express my congratulations to the coalition led by the honourable Berlusconi for the clear victory achieved," said President Giorgio Napolitano, Italy's head of state.

Some of the ballots cast by Italians living abroad have yet to be tallied, but Berlusconi is assured victory after most of the results of Sunday and Monday's voting were announced overnight.

Merkel congratulates Berlusconi in telephone call

Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Italy's premier-designate, Silvio Berlusconi, on Tuesday to congratulate him on his general-election success, her office said in Berlin.

Merkel invited Berlusconi, 71, to pay a visit to Germany.

She told him she looked forward warmly to working together with him, having worked well with him in the past.

"Especially with regard to European cooperation, Italy is an important partner of Germany," she said. (dpa)

Garavini wins Italian parliament seat, home to remain Berlin

Berlin  -  Centre-left candidate Laura Garavini, 41, claimed success Wednesday in her campaign for a parliamentary seat in Rome and said the German capital Berlin would continue to be her home base.

Postal ballots for the 12 lower-chamber and six senate seats reserved for Italians living abroad took longer to count than those cast Sunday and Monday at polling stations inside Italy.

She said in Berlin that she had obtained a preliminary tally from the Italian Interior Ministry showing she had won by far the most votes in the constituency formed of all the European nations except Italy.

Rome mayor to be elected in April 27-28 run-off

Rome  -  Rome's mayoral race is to be decided in a run-off, first-round voting results Wednesday showed as a swing to the right was registered in polls held in two of the country's regions in line with Silvio Berlusconi's victory in Italy's general elections.

With most votes counted on Wednesday in Rome, neither the centre- left's candidate as mayor, Francesco Rutelli, nor his centre-right rival, Gianni Alemanno, managed to muster the required 50 per cent needed for a first-round win.

The two will compete in what is likely to be a tight run-off vote, scheduled for April 27-28.

On Sunday and Monday voters in Rome, cast ballots in the municipal election and, along with the rest of the country, in the national poll.

"This is a women's century," Spanish opposition tells Berlusconi

Madrid  -  Madrid regional Prime Minister Esperanza Aguirre, one of the leading politicians in Spain's conservative opposition, Wednesday joined the governing Socialists in hitting back at Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who used the term "too pink" in describing Spain's female-dominated cabinet"

"This is the century of women," Aguirre said when questioned about the remarks of the newly elected Italian premier, who said it was not easy to find women qualified for government.

Appointing nine female ministers, in addition to eight male ones, was "one of the best things" that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had done, Aguirre said of her political opponent.

Silvio Berlusconi meets with allies to discuss cabinet

Rome  -  Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi began talks Wednesday with his main allies to discuss the composition of his cabinet.

"We will have half the number compared with the outgoing government (of centre-left Prime Minister Romano Prodi) - a total of 60 members including ministers, deputy ministers and under- secretaries," Berlusconi said.

He was speaking ahead of the meeting which began shortly after midday in his private residence in Rome, Palazzo Grazioli.

Those attending included the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League, Umberto Bossi, and that of the post-fascist National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini, whose party merged with Berlusconi's People of Freedom for the elections.

Berlusconi says it's too early to name his cabinet

Rome  -  Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday he will not publicly name the members of his cabinet, until he is formally asked to form a government by the country's head-of-state, President Giorgio Napolitano.

"I think I've already gone too far with mentioning names of ministers," said Berlusconi following a meeting with his centre-right allies to discuss the cabinet's composition.

Berlusconi told reporters he would propose a list of ministers to Napolitano, only after he had received a mandate from the president.

"I therefore ask you to refrain from pressing me on making public the names of the future ministers," he told them.

Italian liquor importer charged with tax evasion

Singapore - The Italian head of a liquor distribution company was charged in court with evading nearly 800,000 Singapore dollars (588,000 US dollars) in taxes and duties, news reports said on Friday.

Giorgio Ferrari, 39, the managing director of the firm bearing his name, was said to have told authorities that 65,000 bottles were bound for diplomatic missions, which are exempt from tariff under customs and tax laws.

The charges allege the alcohol ended up going to other customers in the city-state, The Straits Times said.

The offences allegedly took place between January 9 and October 23 last year.

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled in Turin

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled in TurinTurin (Italy), Apr. 18 : A grand bronze bust of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, was unveiled today at Piazza Cavour, in the heart of the north Italian industrial city of Turin by India's Ambassador to Italy, Rajiv Dogra, and Giuseppe Castronovo, the President of Turin City Council.

Ex-minister from Mohammed cartoon row set for Italian cabinet

Rome  - Former Italian reform minister, Roberto Calderoli, who resigned in 2006 in the wake of his appearance on television wearing a T-shirt decorated with Western media cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad, is set for a return to government.

Calderoli is among four leading members of the anti-immigration Northern League, named by party leader Umberto Bossi as members of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi's future cabinet.

"I will be reform minister, Roberto Maroni will get the post of interior minister, Luca Zaia will be agriculture minister and Roberto Calederoli will be deputy prime minister," Bossi said Sunday evening.

Motorists' clubs slam Italian tunnel as Europe's worst

Dusseldorf  - The Cernobbio Tunnel in Italy was dubbed Tuesday the most dangerous road tunnel in Europe by European motoring clubs, the fourth year running that an Italian tunnel has been rated bottom of the class.

Germany's ADAC motoring club said in Dusseldorf the 2.4-kilometre tunnel had no staffed control room, no emergency telephones for motorists in distress and no automatic smoke fire sensors or smoke extraction system.

It had too few emergency-exit doors and escape routes were not adequately marked. The tunnel, near Lake Como, was opened in 1983.

Younger and younger immigrants cost Italy millions

Geneva  - Increasingly desperate African families are sending children as young as 12 on the perilous sea journey to Europe alone so they can earn and send money home. It is a trend that is costing countries like Italy millions of euros.

"It is a dangerous phenomenon," said Simone Moscarelli, the legal representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Lampedusa, an Italian Mediterranean island and frequent landing site for illegal immigrants. "Migration is getting younger."

Moscarelli was speaking at a briefing in Geneva, where the head office of the IOM is based.

Bajaj Electricals Ties Up With Nardi To Roll Out New Brand

Lighting products and appliances maker Bajaj Electricals Ltd (BEL) Bajaj Electricals Ltdannounced that it has entered into a strategic pact with Nardi Elettrodomestici Spa, Italy’s leading household appliances company and one of the largest supplier of appliances to modular kitchen manufacturers.

The deal has been signed up to launch ‘Bajaj Nardi’ brand of home appliances, in the Indian market, which will be marketed and distributed via BEL’s strong network in India and the SAARC region.

Italian saint Padre Pio's remains go on display

ItalySan Giovanni Rotondo, Italy  - Tens of thousands of pilgrims converged Thursday in a southern Italian village to witness the first public display of Italian saint Padre Pio's exhumed remains.

The event in San Giovanni Rotondo was scheduled to begin with a late-morning Mass ahead of the unveiling of Pio's corpse.

Pio who died 40 years ago and is famous for his stigmata (wounds on his hands and feet corresponding to those of the crucified Christ) continues to be widely venerated by many Catholics worldwide.

Italy's Fiat reports 13.6 per cent rise in first-quarter profit

Turin, Italy  -  Italian industrial group Fiat reported Thursday a 13.6 per cent rise in first-quarter profit over the previous year - a surge it described as driven by car sales abroad and higher deliveries of its trucks and farm tractors.

Net profit before minority interests totalled 427 million euros (681 million dollars) from 376 million euros a year earlier, the Turin-based Fiat said in a statement.

Sales were up by 9.9 per cent to 15.03 billion euros, it said.

"Continued success of new and existing models enabled Fiat Group Automobiles to achieve growth, with a total of 563,600 units delivered during the quarter" a 4.1 per cent increase over the same period in 2007, Fiat said.

Indo-Italy cooperation on basis of market economy: Italian envoy

Agartala, Apr 24 : India and Italy have to cooperate on the basis of the market economy because it is the market which promotes the cooperation, and not the government, Italy's Ambassador to India, Antonio Armellini, said.

Armellini is in Tripura on a two-day visit along with four other members of his embassy.

His team would examine the possibilities of business in this region for further developing the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries, said Armellini on Thursday evening here during an interaction at circuit house.

Telecom Italia slashes cable-laying plans in German city

Hamburg  - Telecom Italia has sharply cut back its plans for a high-speed data network in Germany's second-biggest city, Hamburg, according to news reports Friday.

The telco's German subsidiary Hansenet would limit the optical fibre network to a single city district as a "pilot" project, the Hamburger Abendblatt said. Hansenet had decided to concentrate on more important issues.

Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, Hansenet spokesman Carsten Nillies confirmed a delay of two to three months in construction and a reduction in the investment from 50 million to just 10 million euros (16 million dollars).

Romans vote for new mayor

ItalyRome  - Polls re-opened Monday morning in Rome for the second and last day of the Italian capital's mayoral elections - a runoff between centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli and his centre-right rival, Gianni Alemanno.

Polls opened at 0500 GMT and were scheduled to close at 1300 GMT with results expected in the evening.

When polls closed on Sunday after the first day of voting, some 1.1 million Romans, or 47 per cent of those eligible to vote, had cast their ballots.

The turnout was 10 per cent lower than on the first day of the first round of the elections, which were held on April 13-14 together with Italy's parliamentary polls.

Visit a monastery and learn to sing like a Gregorian monk

Rome - If you are seeking an extraordinary holiday away from the rat race, then a monastery in the Italian Tuscany region might be something for you where you can take singing lessons from Gregorian monks and nuns at the same time.

The tour, offered by specialist operator musica viva, will give participants a basic teaching in the origins of Gregorian music that dates back to Pope Gregor (A. D. 600). Elementary choir experience and some knowledge in reading music notes are useful.

Courses are held in Romanesque churches, abbeys and other religious sites in the Tuscany region which are renowned for their special acoustics that resonate with the choir music.

Italy's parliament convenes to the new Berlusconi era

Rome  -  Italy's two houses of parliament convened Tuesday for the first time since the centre-right led by Silvio Berlusconi convincingly won parliamentary elections two weeks ago.

By mid-morning the 322-member upper house Senate had elected a long-time Berlusconi aide, Renato Schifani, as its speaker.

The swiftness of Schifani's election contrasted with the drawn out debates that have characterized past sessions of the Senate when parliament was fragmented into dozens of parties.

Berlusconi's conservatives complete parliament "double"

Rome  -  Italy's lower house of parliament elected Wednesday as speaker Gianfranco Fini, a close ally of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi.

Fini's election in the Chamber of Deputies follows that on Tuesday of another Berlusconi ally, Renato Schifani, as speaker of the upper house Senate.

Fini's post-Fascist National Alliance merged with Berlusconi's People of Freedom party in Italy's April 13-14 general elections which marked a triumph for the conservatives.

Fini received 335 votes in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies with the opposition centre-left casting blank ballots.

Concern about environment enters world of home furnishings

Milan - The environment and climate change have become current and definitive topics in the design of home furnishings.

At Milan's furniture trade show, for example, designers showed several applications of reusable or recycled materials.

In addition, concerns about the environment are being conveyed, somewhat cryptically, by the use of crystalline and polygonal forms. They require less materials without causing the quality of the furniture to suffer.

Minimizing the amount of material is meant to integrate the subject of ecology into design and to effect change in thinking about costs.

Gaddafi son's remarks on Berlusconi cabinet sparks row

Rome  -  A diplomatic crisis was brewing Saturday over remarks by Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's son, Saif el-Islam, against the possible inclusion in Italy's government of a former minister embroiled in the Prophet Mohammed cartoon row.

Italian political leaders from prime minister-elect Silvio Berluscon's centre-right to the opposition centre-left condemned the remarks attributed to Gaddafi's son late Friday.

Saif El Islam warned of "catastrophic consequences" for Italy's relations with Libya if Berlusconi names Roberto Calderoli in his future government, according to Italian news reports quoting Libya's official newsagency, Jana.

Maestro Muti to direct Chicago symphony

Washington  - Italian star maestro Riccardo Muti, 66, was named Monday as the new conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Muti will begin his tenure in Chicago with a five-year contract beginning the 2010­11 season. Muti was appointed by a unanimous vote of the symphony board to be its 10th music director, along with "overwhelming support from the musicians," orchestra spokeswoman Raechel Alexander said.

"We are bubbling over with excitement."

Muti will conduct a minimum of 10 weeks each season, in addition to domestic and international tours. A celebration of the appointment with Muti and the orchestra is scheduled for June 2.

Scenic Salento, Italy's "heel," offers mystery as well as history

Lecce, Italy - Salento, the part of the southeastern Apulia region forming the "heel" of the Italian "boot," offers the eye Baroque art and vestiges of the many powers that have ruled it.

To get a feel for the area's primeval character, it should be travelled from end to end.

Off the beaten track, Salento lacks the enormous hotels that cater to mass tourism. Holidaymakers here find accommodation in restored castle-like farms dating from the Middle Ages. Salento has many a secret waiting to be disclosed, and an insider's tip to be taken. Everywhere are grand sights such as the architecture of medieval churches and palaces.

Fiat moves a step closer to Zastava purchase

Belgrade  -  Serbia and Italy's giant carmaker Fiat Tuesday signed a protocol moving them a step closer to the 1-billion-dollar privatization of Serbia's moribund automobile factory, Zastava.

According to the deal signed with Zastava labour unions, Fiat has agreed not to lay off workers, who would also receive backlog salaries totalling 10 million euros and other benefits.

In return, local authorities agreed to tax and investment incentives including land for installations free of charge over the first decade of the investment.

Fiat and Serbia last week signed a letter of intent on a joint venture envisaging a 700-million-euro (1.08-billion-dollar) investment by Fiat, for its 70-per-cent stake in Zastava.

Tribute to BMW M1 with new concept study

BMWCernobbio, Italy - German car maker BMW presented the BMW M1 at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa D'Este, a modern concept car version of the super sports car, to mark its 30th anniversary.

Instantly recognisable as an MI, the BMW M1 Homage Car has the same aggressive front design. The headlamp-design is a new interpretation of the retractable headlights of the BMW M1. Like the lamps on the historic model, those on the BMW M1 Homage are only visible when switched on. When not in use they are discreetly integrated into the front-end design and "disappear" into the recessed black cutline, almost like pop-up headlights.

Italian president set to ask Berlusconi to form government

Italian President Giorgio NapolitanoRome - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was expected Wednesday to wrap up consultations with all political parties represented in parliament before formally asking centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi to form a government.

As head-of-state, Napolitano has been holding meetings with leaders of all six groups representing parliament which convened last week following the April 13-14 elections. The polls were won by the centre-right with a clear majority.

New Zealand buying five helicopters from Italy

Wellington - The New Zealand government signed a contract Thursday to buy five Agusta-Westland training and light utility helicopters to be built at the company's Italian plant near Milan.

Defence Minister Phil Goff signed the agreement at parliament in Wellington with Phil Smith, general manager of Agusta-Westland Australia, watched by the Italian ambassador to New Zealand, Gioacchino Carlo Trizziono.

The New Zealand air force said the five A109LUH (NZ) helicopters and a flight simulator would be used to train pilots and aircrew to fly a NH90 medium utility helicopter and SH-2G Seasprite naval helicopter.

They are scheduled for delivery in 2011. (dpa)

Berlusconi government to be sworn in

Silvio BerlusconiRome - Italian prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi's new government - Italy's 62nd in 62 years - was scheduled to be sworn in later Thursday.

The ceremony was planned for 1500 GMT in Rome.

On Wednesday, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano handed the 71-year-old billionaire-turned-politician Berlusconi a mandate as prime minister, three weeks following the centre-right's triumph in parliamentary elections.

"Now we can go back to work after an interruption of two years," said Berlusconi.

Italy's President Napolitano defends Israel at Turin Book Fair

ItalyTurin, Italy  - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday defended Israel's right to exist at the opening of the 2008 Turin International Book Fair which has chosen the Jewish state as "guest country".

"There is no dialogue if one moves from a rejection of the state of Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security," Napolitano said.

Minutes before Napolitano was scheduled to speak, security guards at Turin's Lingotto complex which hosts the Book Fair, prevented a group of protestors from unfurling a banner criticizing "Zionist Colonialism".

Italy's Frattini resigns as EU commissioner

ItalyBrussels  - Franco Frattini has formally stepped down as the European Union's commissioner for justice, freedom and security following his appointment as foreign minister in the new Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi, officials in Brussels said Thursday.

"Frattini has accepted to join the Italian government as a minister and consequently has submitted his resignation to the (European) Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso," said commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

Ducati Motor Holding enters Indian Market; plans to sell 50 Superbikes in the First Year

Ducati Motor Holding enters Indian Market; plans to sell 50 Superbikes in the First Year

Italian two-wheeler maker Ducati Motor Holding, famous for it’s superbikes, has announced its India foray in partnership with Precision Motor India. The company plans to bring its entire range of 15 bikes to India, priced between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 50 lakh.

The motorbike giant has informed that the company has signed a long-term partnership agreement with Mumbai-based Precision Motors India (PMI),

Rail and bus strikes disrupt Italy's public transport

ItalyRome - Italian bus, train and tram operators went on strike Friday with phased, four hour-long stoppages planned throughout the country.

Buses and trams stopped operating in Rome at around 0630 GMT while in Milan the strike began shortly afterwards.

Train drivers were also scheduled to go on strike with stoppages planned at different times in different parts of Italy.

Italy's main transport unions called the strike over a series of contractual disputes. (dpa)

Italian police arrest 10 Calabrian mafia suspects

ItalyRome  - Italian police arrested Friday 10 mafia suspects, including alleged members of two mob families linked to the murder of six Italians killed in an August 2007 shooting in Duisburg, Germany, news reports said.

The suspects were picked up in morning raids in the southern town of San Luca - the traditional stronghold of the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian version of the mafia - as well as in nearby Locride and in the northern cities of Udine and Bologna.

German news reports that some of those arrested may be directly linked to the Duisburg killings could not be immediately confirmed.

Rome mayor says he was misquoted on "praise" for fascism

Rome  - Rome's newly elected Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Monday accused a British newspaper of "deforming" remarks attributed to him in an interview in which he appeared to praise dictator Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Alemanno was referring to an an article titled "Italy needed fascism, says the new Duce" published the day before by the London- based Sunday Times.

"The interview was deformed in a shameful way. I had been very clear, I expressed a historical judgement condemning fascism," Alemanno was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency.

Berlusconi targets economic growth, security, Naples rubbish

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Rome  -  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi included Tuesday economic growth, security and solving Naples' rubbish crisis as priorities for his new government.

In his first parliamentary speech since taking office last week, Berlusconi also said Italy would make "its voice heard" in Europe and vowed not to "sell off" national airline Alitalia,

The media magnate-turned-politician presented his centre-right government's programme, ahead of a confidence vote in parliament's lower house Chamber of Deputies, scheduled for Wednesday.

Berlusconi wins first of two Parliament confidence votes

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiRome  -  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's newly elected centre-right government, won Wednesday the first of two scheduled confidence votes in parliament.

The result in the lower house Chamber of Deputies was 335 votes in favour and 275 votes against, with one abstention.

Berlusconi enjoys a comfortable majority following the centre- right's triumph in last month's election, and is also expected to win a confidence vote scheduled for Thursday in the upper house Senate. (dpa)

Rubbish crisis worsens in Naples as fire crews attacked

Naples, Italy  - Despite emergency measures to resolve the rubbish crisis in the southern Italian city of Naples, the situation worsened Saturday, with more than 100 fires set to the mountains of garbage and fire crews attacked as they tried to put them out.

Angry city residents set the fires overnight, which the overburdened fire service struggled to extinguish.

A television team recorded stones being thrown at one fire crew as it attempted to put out a fire in the suburb of Barra.

"They are also attacking us because of the mountains of rubbish in the streets," one fireman said. "It's not the first time they have tried to attack us, and I fear that it will also not be the last."

Salvatore Ferragamo and DLF form a 49:51 Joint Venture

Salvatore Ferragamo and DLF form a 49:51 Joint VentureItalian luxury apparel and footwear brand Salvatore Ferragamo SpA has setup a 49:51 joint venture with Indian real estate major DLF, to set its foot on the Indian soil.

The JV Company christened “Ferragamo Retail India”, will take over the only existing store of Ferragamo in the country in Mumbai. The brand earlier had a franchise agreement with Sports Station India.

The JV company plans to set up at least three stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in 2008 and add another 10 across the country over the next five years.

Italy "ready" to work with Spain to control immigration

Italy "ready" to work with Spain to control immigrationRome  - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday Italy and Spain should work together to control immigration flows across the Mediterranean Seas.

Frattini's appeal came amid a diplomatic spat between Rome and Madrid over criticism by some officials in Spain's Socialist government of Italy's announced crackdown on illegal immigration.

Italian fashion house Ferragamo eyes Indian market

Salvatore Ferragamo and DLF Florence, Italy  - Italian luxury goods and fashion company Salvatore Ferragamo announced Monday it will open three new stores in India as part of a deal with Indian real estate group, DLF.

The stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore will be inaugurated by the end of 2008, adding to Salvatore Ferragamo's presence in India where the Italian company already has a store in Mumbai's Grand Hyatt Plaza Hotel.

The deal, the value of which was not disclosed, takes the form of a joint venture with a 51 per cent participation by the Florence-based Salvatore Ferragamo and 49 per cent by DLF.

Several injured in Milan tram crash

Milan, Italy - At least 10 people were injured Tuesday in Milan when a tram, following a collision with a car, veered off its rails before crashing against a row of parked vehicles and a building, news reports said.

None of those injured were in a serious condition, according to the reports.

The accident took place at around midday in a northern area of the city. (dpa )

Rubbish and security to dominate Italian cabinet meeting

Naples, Italy  - The Naples rubbish crisis, a new security package and economic reforms were set Wednesday to dominate proceedings as Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi and his cabinet convened for a meeting in the southern port city.

Berlusconi has made it his newly-elected government's priority to clear the streets of Naples and neighbouring areas, where rubbish has gone largely uncollected since December 2007 when local dump sites became full.

On Wednesday Berlusconi was keeping a promise, made in the aftermath of his April election triumph, to hold his cabinet's first "operational" meeting in Naples.

Stand-off in Naples district over rubbish dump

Stand-off in Naples district over rubbish dumpNaples, Italy  - Tensions remained high Saturday in a Naples suburb following overnight clashes between police and residents protesting the opening of a rubbish dump in the area.

Three Chiaiano residents, including a 83-year-old woman, injured when demonstrators scuffled with baton-wielding police were released from hospital, news reports said.

On Friday night police arrested three demonstrators involved in the clashes in Chiaiano where demonstrators had set up road barricades.

Electrolux to close Italian refrigerator plant

Stockholm  - Swedish home appliance maker Electrolux said Tuesday it will close one of its refrigerator plants in Italy to boost competitiveness, citing the results of an internal review.

Production of refrigerators at Scandicci, south-west of Florence, will relocate to the group's plant at Susegana, impacting some 450 employees, the group said.

Electrolux said it planned to help find "solutions to reduce negative impact on affected employees," noting possibilities like outplacement services.

Meanwhile the group was to invest in the Susegana plant about 45 kilometres north of Venice.

Italy's Benetton and Sears Mexico clinch store deal

BenettonTreviso, Italy - Italian clothing group Benetton announced Tuesday it has signed an agreement with department store chain Sears Mexico to develop its brand in the Central American nation.

Based in the north-eastern Italian city of Treviso, Benetton, which is known for its colourful knitwear, said in a statement it aimed to open 50 stores in Mexico.

Under the agreement, Benetton will also open points of sale in Sears department stores across Mexico, giving the Italian company a total of around 250 retail outlets in the Central American nation by 2011.

Ferrari fights for customers with new baby GT

Ferrari fights for customers with new baby GTMaranello, Italy  - Ferrari has announced a new entry-level supercar, the California drophead, which is designed to attract new customers to the Italian marque.

The front-engined V8 with its Pininfarina-styled aluminium bodywork and a folding metal hardtop is every inch a Ferrari but the car is less hardcore than its bigger brothers, making it easier to drive.

Landslide kills two in Italy's rain-hit Piedmont region

Landslide kills two in Italy's rain-hit Piedmont regionTurin, Italy - A landslide on Thursday near the north- western Italian city of Turin, killed at least two people, news reports said.

One body was recovered from a building engulfed by mud and rocks while the other was found nearby, inside an overturned car, the ANSA newsagency said.

Rescuers were also searching for two people reported missing in the landslide which struck the Villar Pellice area in the Piedmont region where heavy rains had been falling throughout the day. (dpa)

Italy to respond to EU's Alitalia query

Rome - Italy's European Union Affairs Minister, Andrea Ronchi, said the government would comply with a European Commission deadline Friday to provide details on a proposed multimillion-euro bail-out for airline Alitalia.

The commission gave Italy until May 19 - but subsequently extended the deadline to Friday - to respond on the 300 million euros (467 million dollars) in credit intended for the ailing, state-controlled Alitalia.

The authorities in Brussels, doubt the regularity of the bail-out since it could be considered a government subsidy, which is banned in the European Union.

The Italian government told the commission earlier this month the package was a standard loan and normal market practice.

Iranian president's anti-Israel remarks condemned in Italy

Iran PMRome - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked Tuesday his arrival in Italy - the first visit to a European nation since his 2005 election - with remarks against Israel which drew immediate condemnation.

"The European people have been subjected to most of the Zionists' damage and today the costs of this falsified regime, both the political and the economic, fall on the shoulders of Europe," Ahmadinejad said referring to Israel.

Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said the Iranian president's comments provoked "great concern."

Berlusconi: We'll make Mediterranean cleanest sea in the world

Rome  - Italy and Egypt will work together to clear the Mediterranean of pollution and make it the "cleanest sea in the world," Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday.

The Italian premier made the pledge at a joint news conference with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, after the two leaders held talks in Rome.

Berlusconi who was elected prime minister for a third time in April, jokingly said he would "go to school" to learn from Mubarak how to stay in power for "30 years."

In fact, the Egyptian leader who was first elected president in 1981, had been in office for 27 years.

India's Mahindra buys Italian design company

New Delhi  - Mahindra & Mahindra, one of India's largest automotive conglomerates Thursday announced it has acquired Italian two-wheeler design firm Engines Engineering SpA for an undisclosed amount.

"M&M has signed an agreement with Engines Engineering SpA, agreeing to acquire a 100 per cent stake in Engines Engineering Srl, the new legal entity which will be formed by transferring the business of Engines Engineering SpA," the company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The Italian company has revenues of about 12 million dollars and focuses on developing motorcycle prototypes and two-wheel design.

Italian Galileo Chini exhibition in Bangkok is a homecoming

Italian Galileo Chini exhibition Bangkok  - The organizer of an exhibition of more than 200 works by Italian artist Galileo Chini said it was a miracle it opened in Bangkok on Friday.

The Galileo Chini Exhibition @ Central Chidlom includes four paintings never seen in public and six shown only once previously in Rome, organizer Camillo Pellegatta said after the opening Friday.

More bodies of would-be immigrants found in sea off Libya

Sicily Italy MapPalermo, Sicily - An Italian Navy patrol boat recovered Friday the bodies of seven would-be immigrants in Libyan territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The find, brought to 12 the number of people believed to have drowned in a shipwreck involving an inflatable boat carrying would-be immigrants attempting to reach Sicily from North Africa, coast guard officials said.

"We believe all the missing people are now accounted for," coast guard official, Michele Andrea, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Italy says EU should revise its biofuels targets

Bio Fuel LogoLuxembourg  - Italy on Friday called on the European Commission to revise its biofuels targets in view of rising fuel prices.

"The (EU) should revise its objective in light of what is happening with food prices, which can no longer be ignored," said Italian Energy Minister Claudio Scajola on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Luxembourg.

In March 2007 the EU's member states agreed to derive 10 per cent of the bloc's fuel needs from plant-based sources by 2020.

The target was part of a package of measures aimed at reducing Europe's reliance on energy imports and fighting global warming.

German foundation for WWII forced workers has no money for Italians

Berlin  - A state-backed German foundation set up to fund compensation payments to slave labourers under the regime of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler has no money to pay Italian soldiers forced into labour during World War II.

The "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft" (Remembrance, Responsibility and Future) Foundation told the Sunday edition of Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper that the money remaining at the foundation's disposal had been earmarked for other purposes.

This week a Rome appeal court upheld damages claims from Italian soldiers who were interned and forced into labour by the Nazis in a ruling that could put German government assets in Italy at risk of being seized and sold.

Keep that rubbish coming, Hamburg tells Naples

Hamburg  - From Naples, the Italian city with nowhere to dump its rubbish, the freight trains take 44 hours to reach Hamburg, a German city that is only too happy to incinerate the stinking mess.

Hamburg's municipal sanitation department has contracted with the Italian government's garbage supremo to destroy 30,000 tons of garbage from Campania, the Italian region that includes Naples, as part of a German promise to burn 160,000 tons for the Italians.

Sanitation spokesman Reinhard Fiedler declined to say what Hamburg is charging to transform all that refuse into ash and flue gas. But he said the work was not being subsidized by Hamburg taxpayers.

Italy probes Milan's "Horror Clinic"

Milan, Italy  - Italian authorities on Tuesday began interrogating suspects linked to a private Milan clinic where unnecessary surgery, allegedly performed to obtain state money, is believed to have led to the deaths of five patients.

Investigators uncovered the alleged plot, involving 14 doctors at the Santa Rita clinic and its owner, after intercepting telephone conversations.

Medical records seized at the clinic were also found to have been falsified to motivate operations, with some 88 patients subjected to unnecessary surgery over the past two years, prosecutors say.

Police on Monday took into custody two senior doctors while other suspects were served with house arrest orders.

Fiat Phylla concept city car runs on solar energy

Fiat Phylla concept city car runs on solar energyTurin, Italy  - Fiat has revealed a nifty city concept car, the Phylla, which can run on solar energy supplementing a battery pack that can also be charged from the electric grid.

Built on an aluminium space frame with a triangular design, the car offers all-round visibility useful for city driving.

The cabin volume is defined by an asymmetrical layout of pillars which contour the triangular glass surfaces that can be replaced by solar panels. The layout with all-round visibility helps especially when parking in typical city driving conditions.

Six die at Italian sewage treatment plant

Six die at Italian sewage treatment plantCatania, Italy - Six workers at a sewage treatment plant on the island of Sicily died after being overcome by poisonous fumes, Italian fire services and police said Wednesday.

The six men were attempting to clean a nearly empty sewage basin in the Mineo community around 35 kilometres from Catania when the incident occurred. Further information was not available.

Italian authorities said the six included four Mineo employees and two workers from a private firm.

Girls fare better in maths in countries where women are more equal

Florence, Italy  - Girls are better than boys in reading, but they also can keep up with boys in mathematics when the genders are on a more equal footing in their native countries, according to research published in the journal Science.

The data came to light on closer examination by Luigi Guiso of European University Institute in Florence of data published in 2003 in a PISA study. At the time, the maths and reading skills of more than 276,000 boys and girls age 15 from 40 countries were compared.

Guiso's research showed a relationship between the social position of women in a country and the math skills of girls in that country. The higher the position, the greater the girls' abilities in mathematics.

Italian cabinet minister welcomes likely no win in Irish referendum

Rome  - A cabinet minister in Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government on Friday welcomed the outcome of the Irish referendum.

"A thank-you goes to the Irish people for their vote," Minister for Simplifying Legislation Roberto Calderoli was quoted as saying by the ANSA newsagency.

"Each time peoples have been called to vote, they have with clamour rejected a model of Europe which is seen as distant from the people themselves," Calderoli, added.

Calderoli said Ireland's rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon was in tune with the policies of his party, the Northern League which campaigns for devolving more power to Italy's regions.

Policing role for soldiers in Italy stirs controversy

Rome  - Italy's centre-right government vowed Monday to press on with a controversial proposal to deploy hundreds of soldiers to help police combat crime and maintain public order, including dealing with unrest linked to the Naples rubbish crisis.

"In many urban areas, there's a perception of growing insecurity," Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said, defending the proposal which the cabinet is expected to approve through a decree on Tuesday.

The measure involves deploying a total of 2,500 soldiers for a period of six months in 10 major cities, including Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Genoa.

Soldiers will have the same power as police, including that of stopping suspects and carrying out searches.

Italy's senate approves law to "save" Berlusconi from trial

Rome  - Italy's Senate approved Wednesday a controversial law branded by the opposition as "Save the Premier" because it paves the way for the suspension of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's corruption trial.

The law, which is part of a security package, was approved by 160 votes for and 11 against, with senators from the main centre-left opposition parties abandoning the Senate hall in protest.

The measure was propounded by Berlusconi's conservative allies, who presented it, as a means to help Italy's overburdened judiciary clear a trial-backlog so it can concentrate on more serious cases.

Italy to push for approval of Lisbon Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian prime minister Silvio Berluscon Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday Italy will push for the acceptance of the European Union's reform treaty by all its members.

"From our part, we will indicate for the approval of the European Union's treaty by all the remaining 26 member states, besides Ireland," Berlusconi said.

"The 27th (member state), Ireland, will have to present its own solution," he added, referring to last week's referendum in which Ireland rejected the Treaty of Lisbon.

Jailed Iranian students thank Rome mayor street-name proposal

Fault under Adriatic Sea might bring Italy into contact with CroatiaRome  - Seven students imprisoned in Iran have sent a letter to Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, thanking him for his proposal to rename a street in the Italian capital in honour of Iranian student activists.

The letter was sent to Alemanno through Rome-based news agency, Adnkronos International (AKI), which published the contents on Friday.

Whirling skyscraper plans unveiled in New York

New York - Space needles were one thing, with a restaurant up top that rotated for an ever-changing view.

But now an Italian-based architect, David Fisher, Tuesday introduced a design that would allow every floor of a towering skyscraper of apartments to rotate at the will of its occupants or building operator, offering scenes of sunrise and sunset all from one location.

The first "rotating tower" is to be finished by 2010 in booming Dubai, the second shortly after in Moscow, said Fisher at his presentation.

Buyers can get in on the deal starting at 30,000 dollars per square meter. German companies have expressed interest, but Fisher would only reveal that it could be in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt or Munich.

Italian architect plans world's first ‘rotating skyscrapers’ in Dubai, Moscow

New York, June 25: Italian architect David Fisher has unveiled his plans to build world’s first revolutionary rotating skyscrapers in Dubai and Moscow.

The first “rotating tower” – a design that would allow every floor of a towering skyscraper of apartments to rotate at the will of its occupants or building operator, offering scenes of sunrise and sunset all from one location – is to be finished by 2010 in booming Dubai, the second shortly after in Moscow.

He hopes to build a third tower in New York some time "very soon."

Italy's UniCredit to cut 9,000 jobs

Rome  - Italy's biggest bank, UniCredit, announced Thursday it plans to slash its workforce by 9,000 people as part of a new three-year business plan.

Linking the job cuts to its 2007 purchase of Rome-based bank Capitalia, Unicredit said in a statement that staffing in its western Europe operations, including Italy, Germany and Austria, needed to be "right-sized."

UniCredit CEO Alessandro Profumo was expected to provide further details when presenting the bank's 2008-2010 business plan in Vienna, later Thursday.

UniCredit also said in the statement that it expects its revenue to rise 6.7 per cent a year through 2010, as the group expands in eastern Europe.

Finger-printing of Roma children criticized in Italy

UNICEFRome - An Italian government proposal to record the finger- prints of ethnic Roma children has drawn widespread criticism including from Catholic officials.

"Children should not be criminalized and they should not be subjected to police procedures," the head of Catholic charity Caritas, Monsignor Vittorio Nozza, said in a interview published Friday by Rome-based daily, La Repubblica.

Italian government insists it will fingerprint Roma

Rome - Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday the government would press ahead with plans to fingerprint ethnic Roma, including children - a move branded as discriminatory by European Union officials.

Frattini - the EU's top justice official before he joined Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet - was commenting on remarks made Sunday by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who described critics of the plan as "hypocrites."

"I think Minister Maroni has done well to continue on the path he has outlined," Frattini said. "We are not talking of raids (against Roma communities) or anything of the sort, but a measure to identify those living in our country."

After grazing on Saturn's rings, Cassini moves in on moons

Washington  - After delivering spectacular images of Saturn's rings in recent years, NASA's Cassini spacecraft turned its focus Monday to Saturn's moons and how sunlight affects the surfaces of the gas giant and its natural satellites.

Cassini got a new lease on life earlier this year, when NASA approved the programme for another 60 orbits of Saturn and several dozen flybys of the moons Titan, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea and Helene.

During the last four years, Titan has already offered tantilizing evidence of possible habitability and an underground ocean, while Enceladus spouted giant water vapour plumes, thought to come from vaporizing ice.

One dead as 13 refugees discovered on Greek ferry in Venice

Venice - Thirteen refugees - one dead and the others in a state of near exhaustion - were found in the loading area of a Greek ferry in the Italian port city of Venice Friday.

According to Venetian police, most of the refugees were from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them were found tied under the motors of lorries that were being shipped by ferry.

The ferry was identified as the Icarus, owned by Minoan Lines of Crete. (dpa)

Strike disrupts public transport in Italy

Rome - Striking Italian public transport workers on Monday brought to a halt most of the country's train, bus, tram and subway services.

Railway workers began their 24-hour stoppage on Sunday at 7 pm and were joined by bus drivers and other local transport workers on Monday morning.

Unions called the strike over a contract dispute. (dpa)

Italian coast guard intercepts over 300 would-be immigrants

Lampedusa, Italy - Italian coast guard patrols intercepted Tuesday over 300 would-be immigrants attempting to reach the country's shores illegally, officials said.

One boat carrying 290 people - including 29 women and a newborn baby - was spotted by the coast guard some 30 nautical miles south of the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

The group, whose nationality was not immediately known, was taken to a reception centre for illegal immigrants situated on Lampedusa.

Another group consisting of 29 people was brought to Lampedusa earlier when their vessel was also intercepted by the coast guard.

Mountain railways in Italy, Switzerland, get world nod

Alpine railwaysWashington/Quebec City - A stretch of Alpine railways that connect Thusis in Switzerland via St Moritz to Tirano in Italy were added to the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO.

The 128-kilometre rail designation includes the Albula line and the Bernina pass lines operated by Switzerland's Rhaetian Railway. The lines pass through Alpine mountain towns and landscape and through the language divides of German, Romansh and Italian cultures.

Italian court approves removal of life support for woman in coma

Milan, Italy  - An Italian appeals court ruled Wednesday that life support can be removed from a woman who has been in a coma for 16 years and whose case has fuelled controversy over euthanasia in mostly Catholic Italy.

Proof had been provided of the "irreversibility" of Eluana Englaro's "vegetative state," Magistrate Filippo Lamanna wrote in arguments submitted to the Milan court, the ANSA news agency reported.

The 34-year-old Englaro has been kept alive through feeding tubes since a 1992 car accident.

Pope receives King of Bahrain

Pope expresses shame over priest sex abuse scandalCastel Gandolfo, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday met Bahrain's King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa thanking him for the "welcome he has shown to many Christian immigrants," a Vatican statement said.

For his part, Al-Khalifa invited the pontiff to visit the mostly Muslim island-state of Bahrain.

The pontiff, who since last week has been staying in his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome, received the monarch for morning talks.

Over 400 would-be immigrants spotted off Italian island

Lampedusa, Italy - Three vessels carrying around 450 would-be immigrants were heading Monday for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, navy officials said.

The Italian navy picked up SOS signals transmitted from two of the vessels, both drifting some 70 nautical miles south-east of Lampedusa, Captain Cosimo Nicastro said.

A coastguard patrol boat has been dispatched to rescue the would-be immigrants whose nationality has yet to be established, Nicastro said.

Another coastguard rescue mission was under way for the over 50 occupants of the third vessel, which was spotted by an Italian trawler some 55 nautical miles south of Lampedusa, Nicastro said.

Russian, Italian presidents discuss trade, European security

Moscow - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano met with Russia's ruling duo president Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Vladimir Putin in Moscow Wednesday for talks a Kremlin spokesman said would focus on international diplomacy, as Italy assumes the G8 presidency next year.

"In the discussions on international affairs, particular attention was given to the two countries interaction in the G8 ... and also in the United Nations and within the framework of the Russia-EU partnership," the Interfax news agency quoted the Kremlin source as saying.

Italian car market shrinks as economic woes set in

acseBerlin - Italy's domestic car market shrank by 19.5 per cent year-on-year in June, data released Wednesday showed, as the economic mood in the nation continue to darken.

New car registrations in Italy dropped to 184,275 last month compared with 228,924 in June 2007, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers' Association

Last month's slump brought the overall drop in the Italian car market for the first six months to the year to 11.5 per cent.

From 2010 Italy to fingerprint all, not just ethnic Roma

Fingur PrintRome  - Italian parliamentarians approved Wednesday a provision to include on all identity cards issued from 2010 the bearers' fingerprints - a decision which comes amid a row over the government's intention to fingerprint ethnic Roma, including children.

The provision was propounded by a parliamentary commission with the backing of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition and of several opposition lawmakers, including centrist Catholics.

Berlusconi fails in attempt to remove judge in corruption trial

Milan, Italy  - A Milan court threw out Thursday a request by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers for the removal of the presiding judge in a corruption trial against the premier.

The ruling by the appeals court comes amid controversy in Italy over legislation propounded by the centre-right government which critics say is solely aimed at protecting Berlusconi from legal action.

Berlusconi is currently on trial on charges he ordered payment in 1997 of at least 600,000 dollars to his co-defendant, British lawyer David Mills, in exchange for false testimony at two Berlusconi trials in the 1990s.

Evicted Milan Muslims pray at stadium "mosque"

Milan, Italy  - Italian police were out in force Friday at a Milan stadium converted into a makeshift mosque by Muslims who were forced to abandon their previous place of worship, a downtown garage which has been linked to Islamist terrorism.

Organizers of the Friday prayers, said they expected some 5,000 Muslims at the Vigorelli velodrome which also contains a disused cycling track.

The decision by Milan's town hall to allow Muslims to use the facility on a temporary basis has triggered protests from local residents, raising concern of possible attempts to disrupt the prayer session.

On Friday, around a several dozen protesters, including far-right political leader, Daniela Santanche, gathered near the stadium.

Munich court accepts Falzano, Italy war crime case

Munich - A Munich court has agreed to try an 89-year-old former German officer for the 1944 Falzano massacre in Italy, two years after an Italian court sentenced him in absentia to life in jail, court officials said Friday.

Fourteen Italian civilians were killed in the June 1944 atrocity, a reprisal by Nazi forces for an ambush by Italian partisans.

The defendant, who was a lieutenant in a mountain troops unit, lived quietly in Ottobrunn, a Munich suburb, after World War II and was a town councillor for two decades. A court spokeswoman said his murder trial would begin September 15.

He and a major allegedly plotted the reprisal in Falzano, a village in Tuscany.

Munich court accepts Falzano, Italy war crime case

Munich - A Munich court has agreed to try an 89-year-old former German officer for the 1944 Falzano massacre in Italy, two years after an Italian court sentenced him in absentia to life in jail, court officials said Friday.

Fourteen Italian civilians were killed in the June 1944 atrocity, a reprisal by Nazi forces for an ambush by Italian partisans.

The defendant, who was a lieutenant in a mountain troops unit, lived quietly in Ottobrunn, a Munich suburb, after World War II and was a town councillor for two decades. A court spokeswoman said his murder trial would begin September 15.

He and a major allegedly plotted the reprisal in Falzano, a village in Tuscany.

Operation starts to rescue Italian climbers on Himalayan peak

Islamabad - Rescue teams supported by Pakistan's army launched an operation Saturday to rescue two Italian climbers stranded four days ago some 7,000 metres up a Himalayan peak.

Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones were climbing a new route on Nanga Parbat, altitude 8,126 metres, when rain and storms opened up many crevasses, blocking their way back to the base camp. Their colleague, world-renowned Italian climber Karl Unterkircher, fell into a ravine and died.

"A Pakistan Army's helicopter, carrying an Italian rescue team, overflew the two survivor climbers around 7 am local time (0100 GMT), and they waived at the rescuers," said Rashid Ahmad, spokesman for Hushe Trecks and Tours, the tour operator that arranged the Nanga Parbat expedition.

Rescuers lose sight of Italian climbers stranded on Himalayan peak

Islamabad  - Rescue teams supported by Pakistan's army on Sunday lost the sight of two Italian climbers stranded five days ago some 7,000 metres up a Himalayan peak as the bad weather continued to hamper the rescue mission.

"When the weather was clear this morning the both climbers could not be spotted at the site where they were seen yesterday," said Mohammed Akram, vice president of Alpine Club of Pakistan. Later on bad weather reduced the visibility to almost zero.

Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones were climbing a new route on Nanga Parbat, altitude 8,126 metres, when rain and storms opened up many crevasses, blocking their way back to the base camp.

Jeans are not a "chastity belt" Italian court rules

Rome  - Italy's top appeals court upheld Monday a sexual assault conviction by ruling that "jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt."

The Court of Cassation contradicted its own controversial decision of almost a decade ago, when, in a similar case, it ruled that a woman wearing jeans could not claim to be raped.

Monday's ruling dealt with an appeal by a 37-year-old man convicted in 2005 of sexually molesting his girlfriend's teenage daughter by inserting his hands in her trousers.

The man claimed his alleged victim had consented to his sexual advances by unbuttoning her jeans to allow him to fondle her.

HypoVereinsbank takes out stake in Beate Uhse

Frankfurt - The Italian-owned bank HypoVereinsbank said Monday it had taken over a stake of about 10 per cent in German erotic company, Beate Uhse AG.

The Munich-based offshoot of Unicredit, HypoVereinsbank acquired the 9.84 per cent holding from Reuben Rotermund, a grandson of Beate Uhse, the company's founder,

However, the Rotermund institute, which is based in Liechtensein, still retains a 7.43 per cent stake in the group.

Ulrich Rotermund, Beate Uhse's son and his tax adviser Richard Orthmann have played a key role in the company's business operations since it made its stock market debut in 1999. (dpa)

Italy's Fiat reports 3 per cent rise in second-quarter profit

Turin, Italy - Italian industrial group Fiat reported Wednesday a 3-per-cent rise in second-quarter profit over the previous year - a performance sustained by an increase of sales in its auto division including strong growth in the Brazilian market.

Net profit before minority interests totalled 646 million euros (1.02 billion dollars) from 627 million euros for the same period last year, the Turin-based company said in a statement.

Sales rose by nearly 12 per cent to 17 billion euros, it said.

The company's main auto division, which makes Fiat branded models - including the Punto, Bravo and Fiat 500 - as well as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and Ferrari, recorded a 14-per-cent climb in sales to 8.4 billion euros.

Italian parliament approves crime law targeting illegal immigrants

ItalyRome - Italian parliamentarians gave Wednesday final approval to a package of security laws including harsher penalties for illegal immigrants who commit crimes and speedier expulsion procedures for people entering the country illegally.

With 161 votes for to 120 against, parliament's upper house, the Senate, passed the legislation which had been tabled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition. There were eight abstentions.

Berlusconi won elections in April promising a tougher stance on law and order issues and on illegal immigrants, who many Italians blame for an increase in crime.

Nigerian man arrested in Italy for boy's circumcision death

Bari, italyBari, Italy  - The death in Italy of a two-year old boy following a botched circumcision lead Wednesday to the arrest of a Nigerian man on manslaughter and illegal medical practice charges.

The boy, identified in news reports only with the name Johnson, died Tuesday of a haemorrhage several hours after the circumcision took place, authorities in the southern port city of Bari said.

Police arrested 28-year-old Eraboremi Eghanghe who they said has admitted to carrying out the circumcision with a "barber's razor- blade and some palm oil." However, he has denied being responsible for the boy's death.

Italian climbers ready for airlift in Pakistan's Himalayas

Islamabad - Two Italian climbers stuck on a Himalayan mountain in Pakistan were likely to be airlifted to safety around noon on Thursday, officials said.

"Weather is good, they are moving down and have descended to around 6,000 meters altitude," Sergio Oddo, the spokesman for the Italian embassy in Islamabad, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

According to Oddo, organizers of the rescue operation are waiting for helicopters and "as soon as they arrive, we are going to evacuate both climbers."

Mohammad Ilyas, a spokesman for Askari Aviation air rescue service, said two choppers had been dispatched to Fairy Meadows at the foot of 8,126-metre Nanga Parbat peak and the airlift operation would start at around noon (0600 GMT).

Four climber's killed on Mont Blanc

italyCourmayeur, Italy - Four climbers fell to their deaths Thursday on Europe's highest peak, Mont Blanc, Italian news reports said, citing officials.

Another member of the group survived the fall off a 3,800-metre- high slope of the mountain which straddles the border between Italy and France.

Rescuers from the Italian side of Mont Blanc where attempting to reach the survivor, the ANSA news agency said.

Fatal accidents occur frequently on Mont Blanc which with its 4,810 metre summit attracts hundreds of mountain climbers each year. (dpa)

UN agency champions cassava as food and fuel source

Rome - The tropical root crop cassava could help protect the food and energy security of poor countries now threatened by soaring food and oil prices, a United Nations food agency said Friday.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was referring to an appeal by cassava scientists for greater investment in research and development to boost farmers' yields and explore industrial uses of cassava, including biofuel production.

The scientists meeting at a FAO-sponsored global conference held in Ghent, Belgium, said the world community could not continue to ignore the plight of low-income tropical countries that have been hardest hit by rising oil prices and galloping food price inflation.

Italy, France, Cyprus to help fight forest fire on Greek island

Athens - Italy, France and Cyprus said on Friday they were sending firefighting aircraft to help battle a massive forest fire raging out of control for the fourth day on the Dodecannese island of Rhodes.

Officials said Italy was sending two firefighting aircraft and France two more to help battle the blaze. Cyprus said it was sending one helicopter which was expected to arrive on the island later in the day.

Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers, with the assistance of Greek aircraft, were fighting the flames which was approaching several mountain villages.

Authorities declared a disaster on the island, where dozens of homes have been burned and at least 2,500 acres of forest destroyed.

Italian minister "gives the finger" to passengers in Ryanair ad

Rome - Italian Reform Minister Umberto Bossi's giving the finger to Italy's national anthem led to an outcry earlier this week, but on Friday it was his supporters who were outraged by Ryanair's running of an advertisement showing the minister making the gesture.

"It is offensive and in bad taste," said Italian parliamentarian, Massimo Polledri, a member of the Bossi-led Northern League party.

Polledri was referring to a photograph of Bossi, middle-finger raised in the insulting gesture, posted under the phrase "Minister Bossi to Italian passengers," on the Italian website of budget airline, Ryanair.

Scientific first in Italy could help save threatened tuna

Scientific first in Italy could help save threatened tunaBari, Italy  - Researchers in Italy have made a scientific breakthrough with regard to farming the highly-sought red tuna which is threatened with extinction, an Italian news agency reported Friday.

For the first time in the world, scientists at Bari University in the southern region of Puglia have cultivated the larvae or eggs that may make it possible to farm red tuna on a large-scale, Adnkronos reported

The researchers say they have successfully produced 20 million larvae from tuna in captivity.

Italy government announces state of emergency over immigration

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiRome - The government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced Saturday a nationwide state of emergency in reaction to a stark increase in illegal immigration to the country's south.

The move is to provide local authorities with greater means to deal with the rising tide of wound-be immigrants arriving by boat.

According to the daily La Repubblica, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni plans to build new intake centres throughout the country.

Rescued Italian climbers heading home

Rescued Italian climbers heading homeIslamabad  - The two Italian climbers who were rescued from a deadly Himalayan peak two days ago left Islamabad on Saturday for Milan.

Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones were attempting a new route up Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain in the Urdu language), when their teammate and celebrated mountaineer Karl Unterkirchner fell to his death in a crevasse on July 15.

Both remained stranded on the 8,126-metre "Killer Mountain" until Thursday, when an army helicopter evacuated them to the nearby town of Gilgit, from where they arrived in Islamabad the following day.

Pope holidays in Italy's German-speaking Alps region

Pope Benedict XVIBolzano, Italy  - Pope Benedict XVI arrived Monday in Bolzano at the foothills of Italy's Dolomite Alps to begin a two week-long holiday that follows a hectic first half of 2008 for the 81-year-old pontiff.

Benedict, who last week returned from an intense 10-day visit to Australia where he presided over World Youth Day celebrations, was greeted in Bolzano by local dignitaries and church officials.

Italian climber rescued from Pakistan's K2

Islamabad - Pakistani Army aviators on Wednesday airlifted an Italian climber left stranded on K2, the world's second-highest mountain, by an ice fall last week, officials said.

Suffering from frostbite, Marco Confortola took five days to descend to an advance base camp at an altitude of 5,800 metres, but efforts to rescue him on Tuesday were hampered by foggy conditions.

"Confortola has been rescued by a military helicopter in the morning (on Wednesday)," Italian embassy spokesman Sergio Oddo told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Oddo said the mountaineer was being flown to the town of Skardu where he would undergo a medical check-up and later depart for Islamabad by "first available flight."

Calabrian mafia boss linked to "Duisburg massacre" is arrested

Calabrian-mafiaReggio Calabria, Italy - Italian police arrested Thursday a wanted Calabrian mafia boss who is the brother-in-law of a chief suspect in the August 2007 killings of six Italians in Duisburg, Germany, news reports said.

Police blocked the 31-year-old Paolo Nirta, after a short chase on foot down the narrow alleys of San Luca, a town considered the stronghold of the Calabrian version of the mafia, the 'Ndrangheta.

Nirta is the suspected acting-boss of the Nirta family which has been locked in a bloody fued with a rival clan, the Pelle-Vottari family, since the early 1990s.

Italian car-design company chief Pininfarina dies in crash

Turin, Italy  - Andrea Pininfarina, the scion of one of Italy's most celebrated car-design companies, died Thursday when a scooter he was riding was hit by a car. He was 51.

Pininfarina, president and CEO of Pininfarina, the company founded by his grandfather in 1930, was apparently on his way to work when the accident occurred on a road outside the north-western city of Turin, traffic police said.

Pininfarina was riding a Vespa scooter when he was hit by a car driven by a 78-year-old man who was not injured in the accident but was being treated for shock.

The name Pininfarina is associated with the sleek designs of some of the most famous Ferrari sports cars models, including the Ferrari Testarossa.

Silvio Billionaire Berlusconi buys another villa as Italians struggle with credit crunch

London, Aug. 8 : Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apparently is not too bothered about the credit crunch woes of his fellow Italians, for he has gone ahead and purchased a neo-classical villa at Lesa on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

According to The Times, 71-year-old Berlusconi already owns a mansion in Milan - which he is expanding - luxury seaside villas in Sardinia and Bermuda, and a Renaissance palace in Rome, among other properties. The family that launched the Campari drinks empire formerly owned the latest buy.

Whirlwind kills two Norwegians in Italy

Whirlwind kills two Norwegians in ItalyGrado, Italy - Two Norwegian tourists - a man and his eight- year-old son - were killed overnight by a falling tree when a strong whirlwind swept through the north-eastern Italian seaside resort town of Grado, news reports said Saturday.

The Norwegians, identified by the ANSA news agency as Nilds Hammer, 44, and his son Dastrom, were inside a tent when the tree toppled onto it.

The mother of the family who was also in the tent was not hurt in the accident, ANSA said.

Putin friend Berlusconi slammed for "soft" stance on Russia

Silvio-BerlusconiRome  - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi drew criticism Monday from opposition leaders for what they said was his failure to condemn outright Russia's military intervention in Georgia.

"A phone call is not enough," said the Catholic centrist party UDC's leader Pierferdinando Casini, referring to Berlusconi's conversation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday.

Berlusconi phoned Putin from his Sardinian villa, a luxury holiday residence where the billionaire-turned-politician has hosted the Russian leader in the past.

At least five dead in storms in Italy, Poland and Austria

Turin, Italy - At least five people died in a lightning strike, drowning, electrocution, high winds and the downing of a tree as storms struck northern Italy, Poland and Austria.

A 10-year-old boy died Friday in Turin, Italy, after being hit by lightning while a 37-year-old Italian man drowned off Genoa the same day when he was swamped by high waves in the Mediterranean.

A female German tourist, 27, was missing in the rough waters near Ventimiglia, west of Genoa, and other swimmers narrowly escaped drowning before being rescued nearby.

Aptech inks training pact with Italy’s Seven Ring International

Aptech LimitedAptech Limited, a leading IT education and training company, has tied up with Italy’s Seven Rings International to train graduates in Soft Skills and Corporate Computing Skill Development.

Under the agreement, Aptech would be the exclusive training delivery partner for participants of Seven Rings International in India.

Fresh flood of refugee arrivals on Italian island

Fresh flood of refugee arrivals on Italian island Lampedusa  - Around 350 illegal immigrants arrived on the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa by sea on Friday, bringing the total in the past two days to 800.

Italian coastguard vessels intercepted an unknown number of makeshift craft on Thursday and Friday, which predominantly contained immigrants from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, Italian news reports said.

The immigrants have been taken to an already overflowing reception centre on Lampedusa where around 1200 immigrants are currently being held, the reports said.

Plankton-inspired gadgets to see mysteries beneath world’s oceans

London, August 22 : Italian researchers are developing gadgets that can drift like plankton, which they believe may help improve their understanding of the world’s oceans.

Experts at the University of Genoa say that their "smart plankton", which will carry sensors and communicate using flashing lights, will drift through the ocean collecting data.

Davide Brizzolara, a researcher associated with the project, says that using this approach will provide greater coverage than static underwater sensors do, and would be cheaper than using autonomous underwater vehicles.

Britain, Italy condemn Russia's recognition of breakaway regions

Condoleezza Rice: Obama’s Success Is A Remarkable Accomplishment!London, Rome - Britain and Italy criticised Tuesday Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Georgia's rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in London said that the British government "categorically rejects" the Russian decision.

On Tuesday Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognizing the breakaway regions' independence after Russian lawmakers on Monday unanimously passed a resolution to that effect.

Italian priest pulls the plug on nun beauty pageant

Melbourne, Aug 27 : The Italian priest, who was organising an online beauty competition for nuns, has called off his plans amid protests from faithful and local religious authorities.

The Rev. Antonio Rungi thought that the ‘Miss Sister 2008’ would give nuns more visibility within the Catholic Church and fight the stereotype.

But later changed his mind after seeing reports that suggested that nuns would be metaphorically put on a catwalk, insisting that he had been misunderstood.

Rungi said what he had in mind was not just external beauty but the "overall beauty."

"I wanted to make a blog on vocations, one where everybody could bring their own experiences," the Courier Mail quoted Rungi, as saying.

Christianophobia needs to be countered as much as anti-Semitism or Islamophobia: Vatican

London, Aug. 30 : The Vatican has said that "Christianophobia" must be fought with the same determination as anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.

The Mirror quoted Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti as saying that the deaths of 13 people in Orissa, India, there is a need for promoting religious freedom as a vital part of international relations and human dignity.

"In order to promote this dignity in an integral way, so-called ''Christianophobia'' should be combated as decisively as ''Islamophobia'' and anti-Semitism," he said.

Five billion dollars: Libya's price for Italian colonial rule

Libya cuts oil supplies to Switzerland over Gaddafi's son's arrestRome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced on Saturday that his country is to invest five billion dollars over the next 25 years as part of a compensation deal for years of colonial rule over the North African state.

Speaking during a visit to the coastal city of Benghazi, Berlusconi said the accord between Italy and Libya "will provide for 200 million dollars a year over the next 25 years through investment projects in Libya."

Pope receives ex-hostage Betancourt

Pope Benedict XVICastel Gandolfo, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday received former hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who since she was liberated in July, had expressed a desire to thank the pontiff in person for his support.

The Franco-Colombian Betancourt, accompanied by her mother, Yolanda Pulecio, met Benedict for private talks at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Pulecio had met Benedict in January when the pontiff made one of his several appeals for the release of hostages in Colombia where leftist FARC rebels kept Betancourt captive for over six years.

Italian church loses battle over loud bells

Genoa, Italy  - A court in Italy has ordered a parish to pay some 60,000 euros (87,800 dollars) to a woman who claims that the loud pealing of bells at her neighbourhood church caused her "moral" and "physical" damage over a 23-year-long period, news reports said Tuesday.

The woman, a retired teacher from Lavagna near the north-western city of Genoa began her legal battle against the Madonna del Carmine parish in 2003, the ANSA news agency reported.

Judge Pasquale Grasso, ruling in the woman's favour, also ordered the parish to lower the volume of the bells at the Church of Santo Stefano.

EU clears Italian plans to fingerprint Roma

Brussels  - The European Commission on Thursday cleared controversial plans by Italy to fingerprint its Roma residents after the government agreed to make changes enabling them to comply with European Union rules.

A spokesman for the EU's top justice official, Jacques Barrot, said good cooperation between the European Commission and the Italian government had made it possible to "correct any debatable measures or provisions."

In June, the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi proposed fingerprinting ethnic Roma, including children, as part of efforts to obtain more reliable information about their numbers, schooling arrangements and living conditions.

Italian Catholics asked to fast for Christians in India

Italian Catholics asked to fast for Christians in India Rome  - Italy's Roman Catholic bishops on Friday called on Italian dioceses to set aside a day on which the faithful will fast in solidarity with Christians in India who have been targeted in recent attacks.

The Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) said it was taking up an appeal launched by Pope Benedict XVI who on August 27 urged an immediate end to acts of violence against Christians in the Indian state of Orissa.

Unexploded World War II bomb prompts mass evacuation in Salerno

italySalerno, Italy - Some 5,000 people on Tuesday began moving out of their homes in the southern Italian town of Salerno after builders discovered an unexploded World War II bomb.

Officials ordered residents, living within 250 metres of the construction site where the 230-kilogram device was found, to evacuate their homes while explosives experts decided what to do with it, the ANSA news agency reported.

Salerno's Mayor Vincenzo De Luca said that while he hoped the device would be disposed of "as soon as possible," people would probably only be allowed to return to their homes from Sunday afternoon.

Britain and Italy to push nuclear power, aid and defence issues

Silvio BerlusconiLondon - The leaders of Italy and Britain Wednesday pledged to end the European economies' dependancy on oil by pushing ahead with investment in nuclear power and alternative energy sources.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in London for talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said Italy had "suffered from the Greens" in its ambitions to use nuclear power and he was determined to "catch up on lost time."

Italy and Syria strengthen political and economic ties

Italy and Syria strengthen political and economic ties Rome  - Syria Thursday marked another step in its improving relations with the West by signing an agreement with Italy aimed at boosting political, economic and cultural ties.

"Co-operation between Italy and Syria has resumed through intense dialogue," Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, said at a joint news conference in Rome with Syrian counterpart, Wallid Moallem.

Lufthansa upgrades services out of Italy, bigger jets

Frankfurt  - Lufthansa disclosed Thursday plans to upgrade its services operating out of Italy, but denied that the move was prompted by the maladies of its Italian rival Alitalia.

The German airline is to use six Airbus jets instead of the smaller Embraer planes it originally ordered for the new flights set to begin in February 2009.

A Lufthansa subsidiary, Air Dolomiti, will carry passengers direct from Milan's Malpensa Airport to Barcelona, Brussels, Madrid, Paris and other cities, said the group in Frankfurt.

To date, Air Dolomiti has mainly operated feeder flights to Lufthansa's Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

Alitalia's future in doubt as talks with unions collapse

Alitalia AirlineRome  - An Italian government-approved plan to save Alitalia was in disarray Friday with the collapse of talks between unions representing employees and a group of Italian investors seeking to take over the troubled state-controlled airline.

Following a week of unsuccessful talks with the unions, the grouping of investors, CAI, said in a statement Friday that "conditions to continue negotiations do not exist."

CAI blamed the unions for not "not recognizing the dramatic nature of Alitalia's situation and of the need for the profound break with the past that the rescue plan calls for."

Berlusconi accuses "suicidal" unions for Alitalia's woes

Berlusconi accuses "suicidal" unions for Alitalia's woes Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lashed out Saturday at unions representing Alitalia employees, saying their opposition to a government plan to save the troubled state-controlled airline is politically motivated.

Berlusconi was speaking a day after a group of private Italian investors, CAI, broke off talks with the unions who reject an estimated 7,000 job cuts as specified in the cost-slashing rescue plan.

Alitalia not sure it can honour flights, official says

Rome - Alitalia's Italian government-appointed commissioner on Saturday told labour union representatives that dwindling fuel supplies at the near-bankrupt airline meant that it could not guarantee flights beyond another day, news reports said.

"For tomorrow we have our flights guaranteed, but not for Monday. They are no longer supplying us with fuel," Commissioner Augusto Fantozzi told the unions, according to the ANSA news agency.

He also warned that Alitalia would begin to lay-off flight crews from 34 planes which have already been grounded as part of cost-cutting measures, ANSA said.

German on trial for World War II atrocity in Italy

Berlin - A 90-year-old man who was a lieutenant in Nazi Germany's forces went on trial in Munich on Monday for 14 murders during a World War II reprisal rampage in Italy.

The man has already been convicted once in absentia in La Spezia by an Italian military court of directing the June 26-27, 1944, atrocity at Falzano, a hamlet in Tuscany, but the September 2006 life-imprisonment sentence cannot be enforced in Germany.

Interrogated by German police for the Italian trial, he confirmed he had been an officer in battalion 818 of the Mountain Combat Engineers in Italy, but denied the atrocity.

At Falzano, the German Army shot three men and a woman in revenge for an ambush that killed two German soldiers.

Killing of 19-year-old African immigrant triggers row in Italy

Milan, Italy - The death in Italy of a 19-year-old Burkina Faso-born man after he was allegedly bludgeoned for stealing biscuits has provoked outrage with some blaming the conservative government for contributing to a "climate of hate" in the country.

A 51-year-old owner of a bar in Milan and his 31-year-old son were arrested Sunday for attacking Abdul Salam Guiebre, who news reports said held Italian citizenship acquired after coming to the country as a child.

Witnesses said that on Saturday night they saw the two men jump into a van and chase Guiebre and a group of other African immigrants down a street near Milan's central railway station.

Falling bank stocks pull down Milan Bourse

Milan, Italy  - The collapse of US bank Lehman Brothers reverberated in Italy's financial capital of Milan where the stock exchange plunged nearly 3.6 per cent by midday Monday.

The downward trend was led by the country's two largest banks, Unicredit and Intesa San Paolo, which fell 5.54 and 4.3 per cent respectively.

Other losers including industrial group Fiat, which lost 2.23 per cent of its value and internet provider Tiscali, down 3.02 per cent.

Shortly after noon the Milan Bourse's benchmark S&P/Mib had lost 3,57 per cent to stand at 27,359. (dpa)

Unitech Machines forms JVC with Italy-based Magneti Marelli

Unitech Machines Ltd, Rs 700 crore auto components major, has signed an agreement with Italy-based Magneti Marelli for the creation of a joint venture aimed at the manufacturing of motor vehicle electronic system in India with a digital technology.

Under the agreement, the new company will be 51% owned by Magneti Marelli and 49% owned by Unitech Machines Limited.  

Magneti Marelli, a Fiat Group company, is engaged in designing, production and distribution of advanced systems and components for the automotive industry.

While, Unitech Machines Limited is one of the fastest growing diversified engineering company in the country, which operates in various sectors, such as Power, Telecom, Automotive and Infrastructure.

When Silvio Berlusconi couldn’t keep his eyes off the new Miss Italy!

When Silvio Berlusconi couldn’t keep his eyes off the new Miss Italy!London, Sept 17 : Known for his affiliation with women, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, has now got a new object of affection – the new Miss Italy.

During an appearance on a television talk show, the Italian premier was spotted glancing appreciatively at the newly crowned Miriam Leone.

Berlusconi and Leone happened to discuss serious issues on the current affairs show, Porta a Porta.

Strike forces Alitalia cancel dozens of flights

Rome - Troubled Italian carrier Alitalia said Tuesday it was forced to cancel 40 flights to and from Rome's Fiumicino airport due to a strike by one of several unions opposing a government-backed rescue plan for the state-controlled airline.

The flights involved - almost half of which are international - where those initially scheduled to operate between 12 pm and 4 pm (1000-1400 GMT) Alitalia said on its website.

CUB, a union representing cabin crew and not affiliated to Italy's main labour confederations, announced its members would stage a four-hour stoppage beginning at noon.

Deutsche Bahn buys stake in Italian transport firm

Deutsche Bahn buys stake in Italian transport firm Berlin - Deutsche Bahn, the government-owned German railways company, has bought a half-stake in a Milan, Italy company that manages railway goods services across the Alps.

No price was disclosed in Berlin for the purchase of 49 per cent of NordCargo by Bahn's DB Schenker division. NordCargo has 182 employees and annual revenues of 34 million euros.

It operates a rail cargo service from Italy via Switzerland to Germany. The German company already has an Italian subsidiary, Railion Italia, acquired in 2004. (dpa)

Globetrotting Vespa scooter-riding Italian author dies in China

Globetrotting Vespa scooter-riding Italian author dies in China Rome - Italian author Giorgio Bettinelli, who clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres travelling the globe on a Vespa scooter and then recounting his adventures in books, has died in China. He was 53.

Bettinelli who together with his wife had been living in southern China since 2004, died on Monday, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Milan-based Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore said Wednesday.

Pope Benedict praises "truths" on Pius XII's World War II role

Pope tries to woo secular French back to the ChurchCastel Gandolfo, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday thanked the organizers of a symposium examining role played during World War II by Pius XII - a pope criticized by some for his stance towards the Nazi-led persecution of Jews.

Benedict, referring to Pius as "this noble Pope" said the symposium's work had helped appreciate that pontiff's "human wisdom and pastoral intensity... especially in providing organized assistance to the Jewish people," Benedict said.

EU reprimands Italy, Bulgaria, Romania over emergency number

Eurpeon Union LogoBrussels - The European Commission on Thursday opened legal proceedings against Italy over its failure to fully implement the European Union's common emergency phone number - 112.

The EU executive, in its role of guardian of the bloc's treaties, also referred Bulgaria and Romania to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for similar failures.

Alitalia plunged into crisis as Italian investors withdraw bid

Silvio BerlusconiRome  - Italian state-controlled carrier Alitalia faced bankruptcy Thursday when a group of Italian private investors withdrew their takeover after labour unions rejected a job-cutting government- backed rescue plan.

Six killed in southern Italy shootings

Six killed in southern Italy shootingsRome - Six people were killed in two separate shooting incidents in southern Italy late Thursday, according to police officials.

Five Africans were killed and two others injured by gunshots in Castel Vultorno, 35 kilometres north-west of Naples, ANSA news agency reported, indicating that the shootings were linked to drug trafficking.

Three of the immigrants were from Ghana, one from Liberia and one from Togo.

Alitalia to keep flying "until money runs out"

Rome - Italy's near-bankrupt flagship carrier, Alitalia, is to continue with regular scheduled flights, at least until Monday September 22, according to the airline's government-appointed commissioner.

"Much depends on what will happen in the next few days," Commissioner Augusto Fantozzi said in the aftermath Thursday of the collapse of a bid by a consortium of private investors to take control of the state's controlling stake in Alitalia.

Fantozzi said that by law the company was compelled to continue providing services as long as funds are available. The commissioner indicated last week that money to buy fuel was in short supply.

Pope warns against "emptiness" of modern world

Pope Benedict XVIRome - Pope Benedict XVI spoke Saturday about the "emptiness" of modern times and called for a "New Europe" in which people, especially the young, could approach the "spiritual treasures" of religion.

Today's world was characterized by a "dangerous culture of emptiness and senselesness," the pope said in an address at the general meeting of the Benedictine order in Castel Gandolfo.

The men and women of the religious orders were asked to present suggestions for possible new ways of spreading the world of God.

Italy to deploy 500 soldiers in wake of mafia killings of Africans

Rome - Italy's conservative government approved Tuesday the deployment of 500 troops in a mafia-infested area near the southern city of Naples where six African immigrants were gunned down last week.

On Monday, police arrested a 29-year-old man - a convicted member of the Camorra, the Neapolitan version of the mafia - in connection with last Thursday's killings in Castel Volturno.

The attack shocked Italy and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, speaking following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said the state had promptly replied to the "massacre."

"First we dispatched an extra 400 police, now we have taken the decision to deploy the troops," he said.

Topical mafia film Gomorrah to represent Italy at Oscars

Rome  - Gomorrah, a grim, violent portrayal of the Camorra - the Neapolitan version of the mafia - has been selected to represent Italy at next year's Academy Awards, Italy's film industry association ANICA said Wednesday.

Directed by Matteo Garrone and based on Roberto Saviano's best-selling book of the same name, Gomorrah in May won the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Prix - the prestigious competition's third prize.

ANICA's announcement on Wednesday's came as Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the Italian state is engaged in a "civil war" with the Camorra.

Italian government in "hopeful" Alitalia talks with labour unions

Rome - Italian government officials were set later Thursday to hold talks with labour unions on the fate of troubled national carrier Alitalia, amid what news reports said was optimism on an agreement over the carrier's takeover by a private consortium.

The late-morning meeting including the nine unions representing Alitalia employees was scheduled to be held at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office in Rome.

The premier's close aide Gianni Letta was expected to chair it.

"I am hopeful, but to say that everything has been concluded is not correct," Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said ahead of the talks.

Autoline arm picks 49% stake in two Italian firms for € 9 million

Auto component maker Autoline Industries has informed that its Cyprus unit, Koderat has acquired 49% stake in two Italian firms named, SZ Design Srl and Zagato S.r.l for 9 million Euro.

The company has also entered into an agreement with Luxembourg-based Icon Development SA to increase its shareholding in the latter to 60%.

The company plans to raise debt to fund the acquisitions.

Pune-based Autoline Industries manufactures auto parts, sheet metal components, silencers, and exhaust systems for passenger cars, sports utility vehicles, commercial vehicles, two wheelers, three wheelers, and tractors. The company exports brake shoes as spares for Mercedes trailers to Germany, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

Lufthansa CEO in Italy for Alitalia talks

Lufthansa CEO in Italy for Alitalia talks Frankfurt - Amid a struggle in Rome to avert the collapse of Italian airline Alitalia, Lufthansa has resumed talks with Italy's government, the German airline said Friday.

Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber had travelled to Italy at the government's invitation and would also meet trade union leaders, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa said in Frankfurt.

She said she could not disclose what was discussed or who else Mayrhuber would meet.

Alitalia pilots approve takeover plan

Alitalia pilots approve takeover planRome - Pilots at Alitalia SpA gave their green light to a rescue plan for the Italian airline after nearly 15 hours of nonstop negotiations, Italy's ANSA news agency reported Saturday.

The pilots agreed to a takeover by a consortium of private investors after negotiating a reduction in sackings and manager contracts for captains.

The agreement meant only Alitalia's flight attendants union had yet to approve the deal designed to keep Italy's flagship carrier from collapse. Talks were scheduled with that union Monday.

Spirit of Mussolini being revived in Italy

Spirit of Mussolini being revived in ItalyRome, Sept. 27 : Active efforts are on to revive and rehabilitate Benito Mussolini, Italy’s wartime dictator.

On Friday, urban planners and architectural historians from across Italy gathered in Rome to honour the “glories” of Fascist architecture.

The conference, at Latina, a model “new town” created in reclaimed marshland south of Rome by Mussolini in 1932, is the brainchild of Giorgio Frasinetti, the head of urban planning at Predappio, the town in Emilia-Romagna where Il Duce was born and is buried, reports The Times.

Die-hard unions come on board Alitalia's buyout bid

Die-hard unions come on board Alitalia's buyout bid Rome - The last two unions- both representing Alitalia flight attendants - on Monday finally joined other representatives of the financially troubled airline's workers in agreeing to a private consortium's takeover offer.

The decision by the SDL and AVIA unions to adhere to the CAI consortium's buyout plan ended more than two weeks of tortious talks.

Their failure would have seen the demise of Alitalia and would have represented a serious embarrassment to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government.

Freed Italian tourists arrive home

Freed Italian tourists arrive homeCairo - Five Italian tourists kidnapped on a desert safari in Egypt arrived home early Tuesday after being freed soldiers, news reports said.

The tourists, part of a group of 19 kidnapped in Egypt's Western Desert by masked men on September 19, landed in Turin at 1.45 am (2345 GMT), Italian media said.

The three men and two women aged between 48 and 72 left Cairo by military plane after a medical checkup.

Italian police nab three suspects in killing of Africans

Rome  - Italian police arrested Tuesday three mafia suspects linked to the killing of six African immigrants near Naples on September 19, news reports said.

Police surprised the three - all wanted members of the Casalesi crime family of the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra - in their hideout, a small villa near Licola, a north-western suburb of Naples.

Police also seized two Kalashnikov assault rifles and two pistols which may have been used to gun down the Africans who were killed in nearby Castel Volturno, the reports say.

The arrests follow a massive manhunt involving more than 400 extra police launched in the aftermath of the killings of the Africans - three men from Ghana, two from Liberia and one from Togo.

Spike Lee's Miracle at St Anna angers Italian WWII partisans

Italy ElectionsRome- Italian anti-Fascist resistance veterans have reacted angrily to Spike Lee's film Miracle at St Anna, which deals with the exploits of black US soldiers in Italy during World War II, but also with a massacre of civilians committed by Nazi troops.

On Tuesday, a branch of Italy's main partisan association ANPI said it would picket a screening of the film because of the "historical lies" it contained.

ANPI militants would also distribute pamphlets at the screening scheduled for Wednesday in the Tuscan city of Viareggio to protest the "offence against the Resistance."

Vatican No 2 urges return to religion amid global financial crisis

Rome  - The current world financial meltdown is proof that god-less political and ideological remedies are not capable of preventing global ills, the Vatican's second highest official, Cardinal Tarciso Bertone said Tuesday.

"Through distinct roles, politics needs religion; when God is ignored, the capacity to respect rights and recognize the common good vanishes," said Bertone who, as the Holy See's Secretary of State, holds a position similar to that of prime minister.

He was speaking at conference in Rome organized by the Italian branch of the Aspen Institute, an American nonprofit organization which seeks to promotes leadership values.

Berlusconi vows to defend Italian banks

Silvio BerlusconiNaples, Italy  - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi vowed Wednesday to defend Italian banks hit by the current market slump from hostile foreign takeovers.

Parmesan cheese ranks high on Italian shoplifters hit parade

Rome, ItalyRome - "A pinch of Parmesan" has taken on a different connotation in Italy where the famous cheese is the food product most targeted by shoplifters in supermarkets.

During the period 2006-2007, one in 10 Parmesan products vanished from the shelves of Italian supermarkets without being paid for, a group representing Italian producers of agricultural products said Thursday.

The figure marked an 11 per cent increase over the previous year, the group, CIA, said.

Indian Diaspora facing flak of Christians over violence in India

Manmohan Singh, OrissaMilan (Italy), Oct 2 : The recent attacks on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka are tarnishing the secular image of India in Europe. Christians are questioning the effectiveness of the law and order machinery in the country.

Christians in Italy want to seek Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to ensure safety of their co-religionists and churches in India against activities of hoodlums.

Members of the Christian community in Italy were developing a dislike for Hindus and Sikhs residing in the European countries.

Spain and Italy "clarify" spat on immigration

Spain and Italy "clarify" spat on immigration Madrid - Spain and Italy "clarified" their spat over Madrid's immigration policies on Friday, after Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni described Spain's system as "permissive," Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega has said.

Maroni had claimed in an interview with Italian media on Thursday that there were now less than 120,000 Roma Gypsies in Italy, because many of them had gone to "the more permissive Spain of (Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez) Zapatero."

Mafia turncoat's uncle gunned down near Naples

Italy, RomeRome - Hit-men shot dead Sunday the uncle of a mafia turncoat at a recreational club near Naples, southern Italy, news reports said.

The 60-year-old man, Stanislao Cantelli, was playing cards with friends at the centre in Casal di Principe, when unidentified gunmen repeatedly shot him with 9mm calibre pistols, the ANSA news agency reported.

Cantelli's nephew, Luigi Diana, is a former member of the Camorra, the Neapolitan version of the mafia, who began collaborating with authorities.

Merkel gives cold-shoulder to Berlusconi bank plan

Merkel gives cold-shoulder to Berlusconi bank plan Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel renewed her opposition Monday to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's proposal for a European fund to help banks in trouble.

Closer cooperation between members of the European Union was needed to bring security to financial markets, the chancellor told a joint press conference ahead of talks in Berlin.

"Every country has to live up to its own responsibilities," she said, calling for a more coherent approach to the financial crisis which has spilled over to Europe from the United States.

Pavers Foresight enters JV deal with Italian Firm

Pavers Foresight enters JV deal with Italian FirmMauritius Based Pavers Foresight Smart Ventures announced a 50:50 JV with the 150 millon Euro Company "Fly Flot" of Italy. 

Fly Flot is the largest footwear manufacturer in Europe, with presence in 57 countries, and produces close to 7.2 Million pairs of footwear annually. The firm among the worldwide leaders in direct injection polyurethane comfort technology.

Under the arrangement, both partners would invest Euro 2 million for the setup of a Greenfield plant in Tamil Nadu. 

Italian scientist "robbed" of Nobel

Nobel PrizeRome - Italy's scientific community is up in arms over what it charges as the unfair exclusion of an Italian researcher from this year's Nobel Prize for physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded the prize to US researcher Yoichiro Nambu and his Japanese colleagues Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, for discoveries linked to describing the smallest building blocks in nature.

Bets are on for Nobel literature prize

Nobel PrizeStockholm  - On the eve of Thursday's announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, punters seemed to favour a winner from other countries than the United States.

At least according to two online betting sites.

The speculation mirrors that of Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter that in a survey Wednesday concluded that 85 per cent of all literature laureates since 1995 have been Europeans.

Italy set to follow Britain in bank-bail out

Italy set to follow Britain in bank-bail out Rome - Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti indicated Wednesday that Italy could follow Britain's example in fashioning a financial crisis package.

A government statement said Tremonti "agrees with the measures announced this morning by the British government," a reference to London's rescue package for leading banks of 50 billion pounds (87 billion dollars).

Italy follows Britain with bank bailout

Italy follows Britain with bank bailout Rome - The Italian government late Wednesday forged a stabilization package as a "precautionary" measure to secure banks and bank deposits.

"No bank will go bankrupt," conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said late Wednesday in Rome, after an emergency meeting of his Cabinet.

He said that Italian savers have nothing to worry about and despite the widening global financial crisis have no need to hide their euros under a mattress.

Uncork the holy wine to celebrate the cantucci's 150th anniversary

Rome - In Prato they are proud of their famous biscuits; just don't call them cantucci, even if your name is Pope Benedict XVI.

The German pontiff, noted for his sweet tooth, is reportedly a fan of the slice-like, almond-studded confectionary, a passion he shares with among others, former US president Bill Clinton. Designer Giorgio Armani offers them to visitors at his fashion showroom in Milan.

The cantucci or cantuccini (the smaller version) may have conquered palates beyond the confines of their Tuscan town of origin, but back home they all insist on calling them the biscotti di Prato (the biscuits of Prato).

Italian banking system is robust, says Economy Minister Tremonti

Rome  - Italy's banking sector is "less sophisticated" than in other European nations and hence more "robust" in dealing with the current financial crisis, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said Thursday.

He was adressing parliament on measures approved Wednesday by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government to restore confidence in the country's banks.

Besides an existing provision guaranteeing bank deposits of up to 103,000 euros (140,000 dollars), the state would assist banks that risked failure because of an inability to raise capital on the market, Tremonti indicated.

Two German soldiers fined for barroom assault on Italians

Berlin, GermanyHagenow, Germany  - Two soldiers who have now left the German Army were fined Thursday for assaulting Italian guests in a bar.

A third soldier was found not guilty by the court in Hagenow, between Hamburg and Berlin.

The judge said the three victims were clearly assaulted because they were Italian but there was no wider anti-Italian motive. He said barroom attacks in the district in Mecklenburg were just as likely to be aimed at Germans from other regions of the country.

"We've tried brawls here where the accused just didn't like the accent of someone from Saxony or Hesse," he said.

Venice's new bridge "too hot to handle"

Rome, ItalyVenice, Italy - A raging debate over an ultra-modern bridge spanning Venice's Grand Canal was further fuelled Thursday with allegations that the structure's handrail has the potential to become "scorching" hot.

Venice's Order of Engineers met Thursday to discuss infrastructure projects in the lagoon city, including the controversial steel-and- glass bridge designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.

Milan Bourse tumbles in morning trading

Milan, Italy - The Milan Bourse's benchmark S&P/MIB Index, fell 6.65 per cent to 20,415 at 10:20 am (820 GMT) on Friday.

The plunge came after relatively contained losses on Thursday when the market, and in particular banking sector shares, appeared to respond positively to government measures to provide "last-resort" aid to lending institutions unable to raise capital.

But on Friday, the worst performers were Italy's two largest banks, Intesa SanPaolo, which lost 12.46 per cent and UniCredit, which saw its share price down by 12.27 per cent. (dpa)

Two mayors nabbed by Italian police in anti-mafia raid

Two mayors nabbed by Italian police in anti-mafia raid Rome  - Italian police arrested five men Monday - including the mayors of two towns - in raids targeting attempts by the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ngrangheta, to infiltrate local goverment.

The suspended mayor of the southern port city of Gioia Tauro, Giorgio Dal Torrione, his deputy, Rosario Schiavone, and Carlo Martelli, the mayor of another Calabrian town, Rosarno, were taken into custody in the morning bust.

Italians protest France's decision not to extradite ex-terrorist

Paris, FranceRome - Italian groups representing the families of victims of the terrorism that bloodied the country during the 1970s and 1980s have condemned France's decision not to extradite a former member of the Red Brigades.

The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said over the weekend that convicted murderer Marina Petrella would not be extradited to Italy.

The decision reversed a pledge by Sarkozy that France would no longer grant asylum to members of the Red Brigades and under extremist groups involved in urban guerilla violence during Italy's so-called "years of lead".

Italy approves bank rescue plan

Italy, RomeRome- Italy's government approved Monday a decree containing measures to shield the country's banks, Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said, adding that the cost of the aid cannot be quantified at this stage.

Tremonti said the country's central Bank of Italy would evaluate struggling banks "case-by-case" and then possibly recommend government intervention, which in extreme situations could involve placing a bank under state administration.

The state would also guarantee for a period of five years debts incurred by Italian banks up until December 31 2009, Tremonti said.

Bush, Berlusconi pledge to stave off broader economic fallout

George W. BushWashington- US President George W Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met on Monday vowing to take steps to prevent broader economic fallout caused by the financial crisis and to ensure US and European government continue to cooperate.

Italy and Algeria "victims" of illegal immigration

AlgeriaRome - Italy and Algeria, "both victims of illegal immigration" are to hold a summit to discuss ways to control migratory flows and work closer on curbing terrorism, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

Frattini made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Algerian counterpart, Mourad Medelci, in Rome.

The summit would be held Algiers in the "coming weeks" and would also focus on closer economic ties between the two Mediterranean nations, Frattini said.

UN: Climate change threatens health in Europe and central Asia

UNRome - Climate change poses a health threat in Europe and central Asia, especially among the poor, experts from the United Nations and the European Union's food safety watchdog said Tuesday.

The warning came in a statement from a seminar in Rome on the health effects of climate change on food, water safety and nutrition.

Archaeologists discover ‘gladiator’ tomb in Italy

Rome, Oct 16: Archaeologists, in Italy, have found the tomb of an ancient Roman aristocrat, who is believed to have inspired Russell Crowe’s character in the hit film Gladiator.

According to the news agency ANSA, the name of the ancient patrician was Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a proconsul who achieved major victories for Marcus Aurelius, emperor from 161 AD to his death in 180 AD.

Macrinus, a favourite of the emperor, is thought to have prompted the writers of the Ridley Scott film to imagine their “general who became a slave, slave who became a gladiator, gladiator who defied an emperor,” as the tag line to the 2000 epic said.

Russell Crowe won an Oscar in the title role of the Roman noble.

Italian police catch mafia boss in bunker

Rome - Italian police arrested Thursday the boss of a mafia family which, with another criminal clan, is involved in a long-standing, bloody feud, including the so-called 2007 "Duisburg Massacre" in Germany, officials said.

The 46-year-old Antonio Pelle was captured in what police described as a specially-built underground bunker hideout on a farm near the southern town of Locri in the Calabria region.

Pelle, the head of the Pelle-Vottari family of the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, had been on the run since August 2007 in the aftermath of the killing that month of six Italians outside a restaurant in Duisburg.

Passengers petition RyanAir over Italy-bound plane

Passengers petition RyanAir over Italy-bound plane Luebeck, Germany - In a fresh case of spooked airline passengers petitioning an airline to step up safety, Ryanair faced a customer revolt this week on an Italy-bound flight, a German airport said Thursday.

Passengers demanded Ryanair arrange a full technical check of the Boeing 737 which was grounded before a flight Wednesday from Luebeck, Germany to Pisa, Italy.

Luebeck Airport said a technician had already been flying to the airport with a spare part when some of the 176 passengers began rounding up signatures.

German conman arrested for trying to sell US embassy in Rome

Italy, Rome MapRome  - A German posing as an estate agent has been arrested for trying to sell the US embassy in Rome, Italian media reports said Saturday.

The 57-year-old man is also believed to have offered the building that houses the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome for sale to a German businessman, the reports said.

The man was already being sought under a European warrant by German authorities for serious fraud and falsified identification papers.

Three killed as bus carrying Juventus fans crashes

Italy, RomeAosta, Italy - At least three people were killed Tuesday in a crash involving a bus carrying fans of Italian football club Juventus, Italian news reports said.

Several other passengers injured in the crash were taken to a hospital in the north-western town of Aosta, according to the ANSA news agency.

The bus was apparently travelling from Switzerland to Turin were Juventus are scheduled to play against Real Madrid in a European Champions League match, later Tuesday. (dpa)

Two killed as bus carrying Juventus fans crashes

Aosta, Italy - Two people were killed and several injured Tuesday when a bus carrying fans of Italian football club Juventus crashed in Italy's north-western Alpine region, police said.

Rescuers had to cut through the vehicle's twisted wreckage to release the bodies of the victims, while ambulances took an unspecified number of injured to a hospital in nearby Aosta, Carabinieri police officer, Vincenzo Puzzo, told television news channel, SKY TG24.

Puzzo said the fans were travelling from Neuchatel, Switzerland to Turin where Juventus was to host Real Madrid in a European Champions League match later Tuesday.

German ex-soldier tells trial: army men deplored Italy atrocity

Berlin, GermanyMunich - Enlisted men in a German Army unit were appalled at having to massacre Italian villagers in 1944, an 84-year-old former serviceman told the war crimes trial of their former lieutenant in Munich Thursday.

The lieutenant, 90, is accused of 14 murders in the Tuscan village of Falzano in 1944. He allegedly ordered the reprisal killings.

None of the company of Battalion 818 of the German Army mountain combat engineers approved of the reprisal, said the witness.

At least seven dead in crash of Italian army helicopter in France

At least seven dead in crash of Italian army helicopter in France Paris - At least seven people died on Thursday when an Italian army helicopter crashed in eastern France, police in the city of Bar-le-Duc said.

"There were no survivors," a police spokesman said after the helicopter slammed into a field and burst into flames.

It was unclear if there were more people aboard the craft when it crashed.

The reason for the accident also remained undetermined, since weather conditions were not unusual, the police spokesman said. (dpa)

Italy's record 125-million-dollar lottery prize has a winner

Rome - The largest lottery prize in Italy's history - over 100 million euros (125 million dollars) - has been won after a string of 77 weeks in a row without a winner, reports said Friday.

The winning ticket was bought in Catania in eastern Sicily.

The largest jackpot won so far in Europe was 180 million euros in the EuroMillions draw, while the United States holds the all-time world lottery record with the Mega Millions jackpot of 290 million euros.

The Italian winning numbers were 7-20-21-74-75-81. (dpa)

Swedish Academy invites Italian author Saviano to lecture

Roberto SavianoStockholm- Italian author Roberto Saviano, who has been threatened for his writings on the mafia, has been invited to give a lecture at the Swedish Academy, a spokesman for the body that selects the Nobel literature prize said Friday.

The academy decided on the invitation at its weekly meeting on Thursday, Odd Zschiedrich, administrative coordinator at the academy, told Deutche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Elena Fancini out for the season with a knee injury

Soelden, Austria - Italian skier Elena Fancini will miss the entire World Cup season with a knee injury.

The eldest of the three Fancini sisters suffered the injury to her left knee during speed training in Hintertux, Austria.

In February 2005, Fancini finished second behind Croatia's Janica Kostelic at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Italy's Santa Caterina.

The women's downhill World Cup season begins on December 5 at Lake Louise, Canada. (dpa)

Germany backs embattled IMF chief, Spiegel reports

Germany backs embattled IMF chief, Spiegel reports Berlin - Germany is likely to back the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, despite allegations against him, the news magazine Der Spiegel said Saturday.

A investigation by a law firm has been under way into claims that the French politician had an affair with a woman subordinate. Spiegel said the inquiry commissioned by the IMF had been completed.

Angry Mourinho slams dull Inter Milan

Milan - Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho did not hide his bitterness after his side's dull performance against Genoa and threatened major changes Wednesday when the champions visit Fiorentina for a big mid-week tie.

A scoreless home draw against Genoa cost Inter the league lead with Udinese now on top on 17 points, ahead on goal difference over Inter and Napoli.

"The coach is always responsible, but the players must do what I say," Mourinho said.

"In the second half this did not always happen. Evidently, some players don't know me well enough. Maybe they'll begin to learn when I name the line-up on Tuesday."

Italy adopts education reform amid ongoing student protests

Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government won Wednesday final parliamentary approval for controversial education reforms, against which thousands of students are staging protests around the country.

The Italian Senate, the upper house of parliament, approved the decree by 162 votes for to 134 against with three abstentions.

News of the decree's approval was greeted with jeers of "Clowns! Clowns!," by students staging a sit-in outside the Senate's Palazzo Madama building in central Rome.

Protests are expected to culminate in a strike Thursday called by Italy's main labour unions.

Juventus fan seriously hurt in attack by hooligans

Milan - A fan of Juventus was in intensive care in a Bologna hospital Thursday with a skull trauma suffered in a clash with hooligans.

The 44-year-old man was assaulted by Bologna fans late Wednesday after a Serie A game the home side lost 2-1 against Juve.

He was reportedly trying to defend his son from a group of people who tried to take his black-and-white Juventus scarf.

The man from the nearby town of Modena was hit in the head by a stone and taken to Bologna's city hospital. (dpa)

Italian schools on strike against government education reforms

Rome - Schools in Italy remained closed Thursday as teachers went on strike over controversial education reforms adopted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.

Thousands of students, parents and teachers joined protest marches organized by the country's major labour unions in several cities.

Leaders of the centre-left opposition which is supporting the strike also joined the protest marches.

Around mid-morning, a crowd began moving from Rome's Piazza Repubblica square towards the central Piazza del Popolo square where the protest was set to culminate with speeches by leaders of the main CGIL, CISL and UIl unions.

Italy's foreign minister: Gaddafi welcome in Italy as a "friend"

Italy ElectionsRome - Libyan President Moamer Gaddafi is welcome to visit Italy where he would be received as a friend, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said Thursday, according to news reports.

"If the leader of the Libyan revolution desires to visit Italy we will greet him with friendship, as one would with a friend," Frattini was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

The Italian foreign minister, made the remarks on the margins of a conference in Rome examining a friendship agreement signed in August by Gaddafi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Benghazi, Libya.

Italy helped "save" Gaddafi by warning of US air raid

Moamer Gaddafi'Rome - Italy "probably helped save" Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's life when it warned Libya of a 1986 US air strike, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said Thursday.

Shalgam's claim, made at a conference in Rome, referred to an April 15, 1986 operation in which the then US president, Ronald Reagan, ordered several attacks against Libya, the ANSA news agency reported.

Shalgam, who was Libya's ambassador to Rome at the time, said he was personally warned of the US intentions a day before the raids took place by "mutual friend" sent by Italy's then prime minister, Bettino Craxi.

Hoeness confident on new Schweinsteiger deal

Munich  - Several leading Italian clubs are interested in signing Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger, but club manager Uli Hoeness said Thursday he was confident of keeping the midfielder at the German champions.

The 24-year-old Germany international's current contract expires at the end of the season and Hoeness said Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus had shown an interest in the player.

However Hoeness said Bayern "would come up with something" to keep Schweinsteiger at the club he has played for since joining as a youth team player.

Hoeness said Bayern would also be offering midfielder Ze Roberto a new contract although the 34-year-old Brazilian has said he wants to leave at the end of the season.

AC Milan open negotiations for transfer of Beckham

David BeckhamMilan - AC Milan and lawyers for David Beckham were set to begin negotiations Thursday for the loan of the English star to the Serie A powerhouse.

The ANSA news agency quoted Milan vice president Adriano Galliani as saying that representatives of the 33-year-old midfielder advanced the date of a meeting originally scheduled for next week.

"We are kicking off the negotiation," Galliani said. "I don't know if it will have a positive ending or not, but I hope it will."

Italy's Eni posts third-quarter profit rise

Rome - Italy's largest natural gas and oil company, Eni, said Friday its third-quarter net profit rose 37 per cent thanks to soaring crude oil prices and boosted production.

Net profit increased to 2.94 billion euros (dollars 3.83 billion) from the 2.15 billion euros registered in the same period in 2007, Eni said in a statement.

"Eni has delivered another quarter of excellent results driven by strong production growth and good operational performance in all our divisions," Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said in the statement.

Afghan and Italian films triumph at Rome film fest

Afghan and Italian films triumph at Rome film fest Rome - Afghanistan director Siddiq Barmak's Opium War and Italy's Giacomo Battiato's Resolution 819, about war crimes in Bosnia, won top prizes Friday at the International Rome Film Festival.

The Golden Marc'Aurelio Critics Award for Best Film was bestowed to Opium War, in which a pair of US military helicopter pilots confront the harsh realities of life in Afghanistan after their aircraft is shot down.

Italian investors make binding bid for Alitalia

Italian investors make binding bid for Alitalia Rome - A consortium of private Italian investors on Friday made a binding offer to purchase the state's controlling stake in struggling airline Alitalia, according to a consortium statement cited in news reports.

The offer was presented to Alitalia's bankruptcy administrator, Augusto Fantozzi a few hours before a deadline at midnight local time (2300 GMT).

The bid came after talks between the Compagnia Aerea Italiana (Italian Air Company), or CAI, consortium, and unions representing Alitalia employees.

Juventus keep improving with win over troubled giants Roma

Juventus keep improving with win over troubled giants Roma Milan - A 2-0 win over struggling giants Roma late Saturday pushed Juventus within three points of leaders Inter Milan in the Italian Serie A, and worsened the crisis of the Rome guests holding them dangerously close to the lower reaches.

Juve have now 18 points from 10 games, while Roma were held on seven, just two more than tail-enders Reggina, but with a game in hand.

Da Vinci’s 12-volume collection to be dismantled

leonardo da vinciRome, Nov 3 : A leading Leonardo Da Vinci scholar has spoke in favor of dismantling a 12-volume collection of work by the Renaissance genius.

According to a report by news agency Ansa. it, the scholar in question is Carlo Pedretti, who has been a leading Leonardo scholar for nearly six decades.

Commenting on plans to reverse a controversial 1970s restoration project, which would leave the Codex Atlanticus as a bundle of loose pages, Pedretti said that he approved of the proposal.

Italian marathon runner Di Cecco tests positive for EPO

Italian marathon runner Di Cecco tests positive for EPO Rome - Italian marathon runner Alberico Di Cecco tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO following a doping control during his country's national championships on October 12 in Carpi, the Italian Olympic committee confirmed Monday.

The 34-year-old, who finished ninth in the marathon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and won the Rome marathon a year later, now faces a two-year ban. (dpa)

Struggling Bologna replace Daniele Arrigoni with Sinisa Mihajlovic

Daniele ArrigoniMilan - Promoted Serie A side Bologna have called Sinisa Mihajlovic in to replace coach Daniele Arrigoni after he presided over the club's eighth defeat in 10 games.

The central-Italy club announced their decision Monday, in the wake of a 5-1 defeat suffered at Cagliari at the weekend.

Arrigoni, 49, steered Bologna to promotion last summer and seemed to be in for a good top-flight season after a 2-1 win at giants AC Milan in the opening round of the season.

A bad record of two wins and eight defeats, however, dropped Bologna to second-last position.

Priest and nuns attack Italian restaurant owner over land lease

London, Nov 4 : In a bizarre incident that has been described as a Wild West-style “saloon bar brawl”, a priest and two nuns were seen attacking an Italian restaurant owner.

The fight witnessed by passers-by started over an argument over the lease on the restaurant, owned by the Catholic Church.

The 49-year-old owner revealed that he had rushed to the eatery, in the village of Rutino near Salerno, in southern Italy, after hearing that the priest and nuns were causing trouble.

The fight resulted in the owner getting into an argument with the priest, who smashed a chair over his head, and the nuns joining in with kicks to his stomach.

AC Milan savour first Serie A lead in many years

AC Milan savour first Serie A lead in many yearsMilan - AC Milan have reacted with a mix of surprise and pride to their rise to the top of the Italian Serie A, a place they last occupied more than four years ago.

Their start to the season was a nightmare with two defeats, at home to promoted Bologna and at Genoa, but the following seven wins and one draw have now pushed them to the top on a 22-point tally from 10 games.

A lucky 1-0 win over Napoli, who were down to 10 men and hurt themselves with an own goal, allowed the Devils to leap ahead of Udinese, Napoli, and, probably msot important, champions Inter Milan.

Chievo appoint Di Carlo in coach switch

Milan - Serie A newcomers Chievo Tuesday announced the signing of coach Domenico Di Carlo to replace Beppe Iachini after 10 league games.

The side from the outskirts of Verona lie second-last on six points next to Bologna, having notched a single point from their last six games.

Iachini, 44, led Chievo to promotion last season, when Di Carlo, 44, was fired in March from Parma, who still did not manage to avert relegation.

Bologna also changed coach Monday, calling in Sinisa Mihajlovic to take the helm from Daniele Arrigoni.

Palermo also changed coach after the first game, with Davide Ballardini stepping in for Stefano Colantuono. (dpa)

Italy to continue friendship with US, assist relations with Russia

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiRome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi envisages a "continuing friendship" between Italy and the US under president- elect Barack Obama, and could assist him in improving US relations with Russia, the premier's spokesman said Wednesday.

Berlusconi - a personal friend of outgoing President George W Bush, whose military intervention in Iraq he backed - would have no problem adapting to the new Democrat president, spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti told Italian state radio.

Spain investigates killing of captain on Italian freighter

Santiago de Compostela, Spain  - Spanish police were Wednesday investigating the killing of the captain of an Italian freighter off north-western Spain, police said.

A fight broke out between a crewman and the 50-year-old captain, who was stabbed to death Wednesday morning while MS Paxi C was travelling from Alexandria to Gijon in northern Spain.

The crew informed a Spanish maritime rescue service of the incident, and the ship was ordered to head for the Spanish coast, where police went on board.

The victim and the suspect were Italian nationals. (dpa)

Inter Milan out to overcome defence worries against Udinese

Milan - Their standing in the Serie A may not show it clearly, but champions Inter Milan are facing some unexpected problems in a defence package that was crucial for them in the successes of the past seasons.

The five goals conceded in the last two games, a 3-2 win over tail-enders Reggina and a 3-3 draw at Cypriot side Anorthosis, sent bad signals that president Massimo Moratti did not fail to point out.

"There must be something to adjust," he said. "It's partly a psychological problem and a matter of mistakes. They make them, and if you make mistakes, you concede goals."

UN: Bumper cereal harvest in 2008, but world agriculture threatened

World AgricultureRome  - The ongoing financial crisis could threaten many countries' agricultural sectors, undoing this year's record world cereal production, a UN agency reported Thursday.

World cereal production is expected to set a new record this year thanks to high prices and favourable weather conditions, which boosted planting, said the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the latest issue of its "Food Outlook" report.

FAO's forecast for world cereal production in 2008 now stands at 2.24 billion tons (including rice in milled terms), 5.3 per cent more than in 2007.

Black pope "possible" after Obama's White House win, US bishop says

Barack ObamaTurin, Italy - Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential vote marks a "great step forward for humanity" that could be mirrored with the election of a black pope, according to a top US Roman Catholic cleric.

"If Obama at the White House is like the first time man (stepped on) the moon, then it can certainly happen at the threshold of St Peter's," the Archbishop of Atlanta, Wilton Daniel Gregory, was quoted as saying in an interview published Thursday in an Italian newspaper.

Russia, Italy finalize energy accord on Berlusconi's visit

Luk OilMoscow - Russia oil major Lukoil will sign a 1.35 billion-euro (1.73 billion-dollar) deal to purchase a stake in Italian refiner ERG and enter into a joint venture that would allow it to break into European markets.

The deal was expected to be formalized during Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's visit to Moscow Thursday.

"The transaction with ERG will be closed on December 1. Lukoil will pay cash during the year," Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov told news agency Interfax on Thursday.

Italian PM’s latest gaffe is praising Obama’s ‘suntan’

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiLondon, November 7: Gaffe-prone Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has given rise to a fresh controversy by praising U. S. President-elect Barack Obama’s suntan.

The entrepreneur, while on a Moscow visit, said last night that Obama was “young, handsome and tanned”.

His comment drew a lot of criticism.

“What’s the problem? It was a compliment. If these people don’t have a sense of humour why don’t they just...” British tabloid The Sun quoted him as responding to his criticisms.

The Gaffe-father Berlusconi targets Obama

Silvio-BerlusconiRome - Oops he's done it again.

Barely 24 hours had passed since Barack Obama's election win and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was, it seems, unable to resist making an unfortunate quip on the US president-elect's racial background.

The 72-year-old, three times Italian premier, had initially greeted Obama's election triumph in almost avuncular terms.

He would, he said, offer the 47-year-old US president-elect "some advice given my age and experience."

Berlusconi refuses to apologize for Obama racial slur

Berlusconi refuses to apologize for Obama racial slur Brussels - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday refused to apologise for calling US president-elect Barack Obama "sun-tanned."

The outspoken premier was approached at a European Union summit in Brussels by a US journalist, who had asked him to say sorry for offending Obama with the racial slur.

"It is you who should be apologizing to Italy," an angry Berlusconi retorted before abandoning a press conference midway.

Torino edge 10-man Palermo through late goal

Torino edge 10-man Palermo through late goal Milan - Torino edged visiting Palermo 1-0 Saturday in a pulsating game that opened the 10th round of Seria A at Turin's Stadio Olimpico.

Second-half Austrian substitute Juergen Saumel rewarded Torino's unrelenting pressing volleying home a lose ball from long-range with one minute left.

Torino had notched only three points from their last six games and moved clear of the lower reaches on 11 points, while Palermo remain safe on 16.

Thousands of marksmen protest "fascism" in South Tyrol

Thousands of marksmen protest "fascism" in South Tyrol Bolzano, Italy - Some 3,500 marksmen have held a protest "against fascism" and have demanded that relics from the era of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini be removed from buildings in the city of Bolzano in the German-speaking part of northern Italy.

The protest, held Saturday, was the largest ever held in the area, Suedtirol Online reported Sunday.

The marksmen have been committed to defending their Tyrolean identity in South Tyrol, also known in Italy as Bolzano-Bozen, since 1919.

South African singer Miriam Makeba dies in Italy

South African singer Miriam Makeba dies in ItalyRome/Johannesburg  - South African singer Miriam Makeba died Monday morning from a heart attack in an Italian clinic, an Italian media report said.

According to the ANSA news agency, 76-year-old Makeba felt ill after a performance on Sunday evening and was brought by ambulance to a hospital in Castel Volturno in southern Italy, where she died.

Makeba, a former anti-apartheid activist, was born on March 4, 1932, and enjoyed international fame with the hit song Pata Pata.

South African singer Miriam Makeba dies in Italy

Johannesburg  - South African singer Miriam Makeba died Monday morning from a heart attack in an Italian clinic, her manager confirmed.

Makeba, 76, felt ill after a performance on Sunday evening and was brought by ambulance to a hospital in Castel Volturno in southern Italy, where she died, Italy's ANSA news agency said.

"It was a life well lived," her manager told South African private radio station Radio 702.

"It's really the passing of an era, her legacy will always live on. She hasn't been well for some time now, she had serious arthritis. She had plans for another album to come out. She opened the eyes and ears of the world to South African music," he said in an interview with a different radio station.

Ryanair plane overruns runway during Rome emergency landing

Ryanair plane overruns runway during Rome emergency landing Rome  - A Ryanair Boeing 737 overran a runway Monday at Rome's Ciampino airport during an emergency landing, Italian officials said.

None of the 166 passengers on board the flight from Frankfurt, Germany, were injured, according to the ANSA news agency.

Pilots decided to make the emergency landing following problems with one of the plane's engines, Ciampino's rescue services chief, Marco Ghimenti said.

Strike hits Italy's public transport

Rome - Scores of buses, trams and subways were idled Monday in many Italian towns and cities as local public transport workers went on strike.

The 24-hour long stoppage which began Sunday evening was scheduled to end at 2000 GMT.

The country's major unions called the strike following contract disputes. (dpa)

Two Italian nuns abducted in Kenya

Two Italian nuns abducted in KenyaRome - Italy's foreign ministry confirmed Monday that two Italian Roman Catholic nuns have been abducted in Kenya.

"Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is constantly monitoring the situation," the ministry said in a statement in Rome.

The nuns may have been taken across the border into Somalia, the ANSA news agency said, citing Somali "news reports."

Prize in Germany to Italian author Magris

Prize in Germany to Italian author Magris Frankfurt - Italian author Claudio Magris, 69, on Monday received a top German award for ideas.

The 20,000-euro (26,000-dollar) Walter Hallstein Prize was presented in the city of Frankfurt.

"My dream is of a European state," said Magris. He said the important problems could no longer be solved at national level.

Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister, eulogized Magris at the ceremony as "a great European intellectual."

Wildcat strike hits Italy's Alitalia

Rome - A wildcat strike by Alitalia employees forced Tuesday the cancellation of at least 20 flights at Rome's Fiumicino airport and further disruptions at airports in Milan, Naples and Venice.

The 24-hour walkout by pilots, flight attendants and ground staff is to protest what they say is a breach in an agreement with labour unions by a private consortium, CAI, which has offered to buy Alitalia's state-owned controlling state.

Italian Transport Minister Altero Matteoli has branded as illegal the strike, which is not supported by most of the unions representing Alitalia's 17,000 employees.

Matteoli warned striking workers could face legal action if they pressed on with threats to stage new stoppages in the coming days.

Cruz appears on on way out after row with Mourinho

Julio Ricardo CruzMilan - It may look like a case of lacking gratitude or just the way things work in football, but a possible transfer of Julio Ricardo Cruz from Inter Milan is something his many fans will have a hard time to digest.

Cruz' 75 goals from 181 games played in five seasons seem to mean nothing to new coach Jose Mourinho, who lately slammed the 34-year-old striker for alleged indiscipline on the pitch and appears set on not renewing the player's contract when it expires next June.

Berlusconi in talks with Brazil's Lula restates bid to expand G8

Berlusconi in talks with Brazil's Lula restates bid to expand G8Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in talks Tuesday with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, relaunched his proposal to expand the Group of Eight (G8) to include emerging nations from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

To date, most members of the G8 - which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia - have reacted lukewarmly to the proposal. Berlusconi next year plays host at the group's scheduled summit in Italy.

Italian R&D company acquired by Zydus Cadila

Italian R&D company acquired by Zydus Cadila

India’s leading healthcare companies and global healthcare provider, Zydus Cadila, has acquired Italy-based Etna Biotech, the wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dutch biopharma company, Crucell NV, which focuses on research and development of vaccines.

With its focus on biologicals, Crucell entered the vaccines space with the acquisition of Berna Biotech - a globally renowned, specialized vaccine company - whose dedicated research and development wing was Etna.

Lancia to launch special edition of Ypsilon

Lancia to launch special edition of YpsilonRome - Italian car maker Lancia is launching a special "Moda Milano" edition of the Ypsilon taking a fashion cue with stylish and elegant design features including black Starlite leather and Alcantara for the cabin.

The exterior of the Ypsilon Moda Milano stands out with twin-coloured 16-inch light alloy rims.

Other features include fog lights, automatic climate control and a particulate filter system. The selling price on the European market is listed at just under 18,000 euros (24,000 dollars) with the total number of the special edition limited to only 50 units. (dpa)

Berlusconi heads to Turkey for talks

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiAnkara - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday where he will take part in an intergovernmental summit. The topic of Turkey's European Union accession process is expected to top the agenda.

"Our goal is to reiterate Italy's support for Turkey's EU membership and to commit to helping Turkey to overcome whatever obstacles it faces," Italian ambassador to Turkey Carlo Marsili told the Anadolu news agency ahead of the visit.

The half-day intergovernmental summit is to take place in the Aegean city of Izmir.

Scores of Alitalia flights disrupted amid ongoing wildcat strike

Die-hard unions come on board Alitalia's buyout bid Rome - A wildcat strike by Alitalia employees in Italy forced, for the second straight day Wednesday, cancellations or delays to dozens of flights.

Television news reports showed hundreds of disgruntled passengers stranded at airports around the country, including Rome's Fiumicino hub.

City's hefty offer may seriously interest Mourinho

Italy FlagMilan- The rumours that Manchester City have made a massive, and possibly convincing, offer to Jose Mourinho comes at a time when the Portuguese coach seems to have had enough of Italian football after just four months at Inter Milan.

The English tabloid The Sun this week wrote that the wealthy Arab owners of the English club have had contacts with the coach "and have received a positive response" about his possible takeover from Mark Hughes at the end of the season.

Beleaguered Roma meet sparkling Lazio in city derby

Beleaguered Roma meet sparkling Lazio in city derbyMilan - Struggling giants Roma play an unusual minnow role in Sunday's derby against buoyant city rivals Lazio, who sit far above them in the Serie A standings.

Lazio, lying fourth on 22 points from 11 games, are just two points behind leading champions Inter Milan and go into the game at the Stadio Olimpico boasting an impressive record of 21 goals notched mostly by strikers Mauro Zarate and Goran Pandev.

Archaeologists find ancient babies’ beakers in Sicilian necropolis

Archaeologists find ancient babies’ beakers in Sicilian necropolisRome, Nov 13 : Archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the largest Greek necropolis in the city of Himera on the island of Sicily, where the ancient version of babies’ beakers has been found.

According to the new agency ANSA, although experts have long known about the burial ground, they have only recently understood its importance because of building work to extend a local railway track.

Alitalia faces fine for "disservice" to passengers

AlitaliaRome - A fine by Italy's air traffic authority added Thursday fresh woes to troubled carrier Alitalia as a wildcat strike continued to disrupt its flight schedule.

Alitalia faces a penalty of 250,000 euro (313,000 dollars) for causing a "disservice" to passengers in failing to honour flight schedules, an ENAC authority spokeswoman, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

By late Thursday morning over a dozen Alitalia flights had been cancelled at Rome's Fiumicino airport while a total of some 13 were scrapped at Milan's Linate and Malpensa airports, the ANSA news agency reported. Several departure and arrival delays were also reported.

Juventus hammer Genoa to advance to Serie A top

Juventus hammer Genoa to advance to Serie A top Milan - A ruthless and solid Juventus hammered Genoa 4-1 Thursday to temporarily go top in the Italian Serie A ahead of the weekend games.

The Turin side moved onto 24 points, drawing level with champions Inter Milan, who are away Saturday at Palermo.

Czech defender Zdenek Grygera opened the scoring before Genoa came close on two occasions, but Juve doubled up before the break through a header from Brazilian Amauri.

Italy slides into recession

Italy MapRome - Italy's economy has contracted for the second consecutive quarter, marking a recession that comes in the wake of the international credit crunch, the country's central statistics office said Friday.

Gross domestic product in the third quarter in Italy - the eurozone's third largest economy - shrank 0.5 per cent from the second quarter, when it contracted 0.4 per cent, the Rome-based Istat said.

The third quarter fell 0.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2007.

Italy follows Germany, Europe's largest economy, in posting two consecutive quarters of contraction - the technical definition of a recession.

Italian students and lecturers protest reform plans

Italy MapRome - Italian university students and lecturers staged demonstrations Friday in several cities around the country against government plans to streamline Italy's tertiary education sector.

The protests which have the support of two of the four main labour union confederations, and most of Italy's centre-left opposition, included a march through the streets of Rome.

Police strengthened security around parliament's lower house Chamber of Deputies where some protestors threatened to stage an unauthorized rally.

Italian nuns appeal to save comatose woman from "mercy killing"

Italy MapRome - Roman Catholic nuns in Italy under whose care a comatose woman has been surviving on life support for 14 years, have launched an appeal to save her life in the wake of a ruling by Italy's top appeals court allowing her family to halt the treatment.

"Our hope, and that of many like us, is that the death by hunger and thirst of Eluana, and others in her condition, will not be carried out," the nuns of the Misericordine Order said in a letter published Saturday in the Catholic newspaper, Avvenire.

Ibrahimovic's brace keep Inter in Serie A lead

Ibrahimovic's brace keep Inter in Serie A lead Rome - Two Zlatan Ibrahimovic's classy feats Saturday gave Inter Milan a 2-0 win against Palermo and kept the reigning champions at the top in the Italian Serie A.

The powerful Swede surprised veteran goalkeeper Alberto Fontana right after the break with a fast drive from outside the area that grazed the far post before inflating the goal.

Chief of Italian Army arrives in New Delhi

Chief of Italian Army arrives in New DelhiNew Delhi, Nov 17 (ANI): Chief of the Italian Army Staff Lietunant General Fabrizio Castagnetti arrived at New Delhi on Monday and was given a Guard of Honour at South Block.

He is visiting India on an official tour from November 17-21 on a reciprocal visit and cement our bonds of friendship further.

His visit will not only enhance the existing military cooperation between the two countries but will also open up new opportunities for training cooperation.

Italy, Libya, Malta ministers to meet on illegal migrants, oil

Italy, Libya, Malta ministers to meet on illegal migrants, oilValletta, Malta  - The foreign ministers of Italy, Libya and Malta are to meet on December 5 to discuss illegal immigration and oil exploration in the waters between the three countries, it was stated Monday.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgem will be meeting in Malta at the invitation of Foreign Minister Tonio Borg.

Borg told Parliament Monday this was the first time that concrete proposals had been made on the delineation of the waters for oil exploration purposes.

Italy chasing further glory

Milan  - Marcello Lippi hasn't said much about it but he certainly won't be pulling any punches when he takes his world champion squad to the Confederations Cup that Italy play for the first time next June.

The event organized by football's ruling body FIFA has gradually evolved into a prestigious warm-up tournament taking place one year before the World Cup in the country that will host it.

From June 14 to 28 in 2009, South Africa will thus test its stadiums and infrastructure in a tournament reserved for eight teams from six continents.

Berlusconi holds talks with German Chancellor Merkel

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiTrieste, Italy - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi began hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a day of talks Tuesday, with the current global economic crisis expected to feature high on the agenda.

The discussions, taking place in the north eastern Italian Adriatic Sea port of Trieste, were to be followed by a joint news conference scheduled for around 1430 GMT.

German and Italian ministers lay wreaths at Trieste death camp

Frank-Walter SteinmeierTrieste, Italy - Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday joined his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini in laying a commemorative wreath for the victims of a former World War II Nazi death camp near the north-eastern Italian port of Trieste.

Steinmeier was in Trieste Tuesday as part of a summit including talks between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Surprise team Catania make headlines beyond goals

Giuseppe MascaraMilan - A pair of lowered shorts and their coach's altercation with a journalist have partly obscured a hat-trick from Catania's flag bearing striker and the good performance of the team in the Italian Serie A.

The Sicily side at the weekend rose to a comfortable seventh place as Giuseppe Mascara scored all their goals in a 3-2 win over Torino.

But the striker's feats and the team's good position seemed to take the back-seat in the Italian media, which on Tuesday devoted space to the explanation provided by Gianvito Plasmati about the lowering of his shorts at a crucial moment of the game.

Lowly Bologna welcome veteran Cesar

Rome - Serie A strugglers Bologna Tuesday announced the signing of Brazilian midfielder Cesar, who was without a contract after winning the 2008 scudetto with Inter Milan.

The signing of Aparecido Cesar Rodrigues, 34, was reportedly recommended by Bologna's new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic.

The Serbian, 39, arrived at Bologna earlier this month. He was Cesar's teammate when both played at Lazio and then an assistant coach at Inter.

Bologna are second-from-last in the Serie A on eight points from 12 games. The northern-Italy club rejoined the top flight in the summer after three lower-division seasons. (dpa)

Berlusconi and Merkel "hope" for Alitalia-Lufthansa deal

Trieste, Italy  - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel favour a possible partnership between German airline Lufthansa and ailing Italian carrier Alitalia.

"We both view very favourably a collaboration between Alitalia and Lufthansa. In fact we hope it will occur," Berlusconi said during a joint news conference with Merkel in Trieste.

Earlier Tuesday Italy's top financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, reported that a private Italian consortium, CAI, which is in the process of purchasing the state's controlling stake in Alitalia, was on the verge of clinching a deal with French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM.

Italy allows Alitalia sale for "not less" than 1.052 billion euros

Rome  - Italy's Economic Development Minister Claudio Scajola gave the green light Wednesday for the sale "at not less than 1.052 billion euros" (1.328 billion dollars) of struggling state-controlled carrier Alitalia to an Italian private consortium.

Scajola authorized Alitalia's bankruptcy commissioner, Augusto Fantozzi, providing the government's financial terms are met, to proceed with the "transfer of the airline's assets to the Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI) by December 1," said an Economic Development ministry statement.

Greece and Italy finish of international year with a draw

Athens  - Greece and visiting Italy Wednesday settled for a 1-1 draw in Athens that gave world champion coach Marcello Lippi a record of 31 unbeaten games at the helm of the Azzurri.

Fanis Gekas put the home side in front on 50 minutes but Italy equalized just four minutes later through Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni, whose 16th goal for his country ended a barren period that lasted almost 700 minutes.

The draw sees Lippi, who returned to the helm at Italy last summer after winning the 2006 World Cup and following the removal of Roberto Donadoni, improve by one game an earlier record set by Vittorio Pozzo, a winner of two World Cups in the 1930s.

Greece and Italy finish of international year with a draw

Greece and Italy finish of international year with a draw Athens  - Greece and visiting Italy Wednesday settled for a 1-1 draw in Athens that gave world champion coach Marcello Lippi a record of 31 unbeaten games at the helm of the Azzurri.

Fanis Gekas put the home side in front on 50 minutes but Italy equalized just four minutes later through Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni, whose 16th goal for his country ended a barren period that lasted almost 700 minutes.

Italian minister concerned about anti-Christian violence in Iraq

Baghdad - Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Thursday that his country is concerned about violence against Iraq's minorities, especially Christians, during a surprise visit to Iraq.

Iraqi Christians in the northern Mosul city have been subjected to killings and death threats since September, and many thousands have fled the city.

Around 400 Christians fled to Syria in October alone to escape the harsh conditions at home.

The Vatican said in October the Iraqi government needed to do more to protect Christians in Mosul.

Frattini said Iraq's government had taken positive steps to protect Christians.

Italian police bust Nigerian-run prostitution ring

Italy FlagTrieste, Italy - Police in Italy have arrested 11 Nigerians suspected of running a prostitution ring in which dozens of women from Nigeria were brought to Italy illegally, news reports said Thursday.

The suspects were picked up in several north-eastern cities including Venice, Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Bergamo and Trieste, from where the investigation began, the ANSA news agency reported.

Police were acting on a tip-off from authorities in neighbouring Slovenia, who had discovered several Nigerian nationals in possession of forged documents.

Veterans Nedved and Figo keen on classic showdown

Pavel NedvedRome - Aged 36 and with a 17-year career behind him, Juventus Turin veteran Pavel Nedved can't wait to take to the pitch Saturday for a Serie A showdown at Inter Milan.

Juve come to the Giuseppe Meazza stadium off five straight league wins, which have pushed them within three points of the leading champions after a dithering start to the season.

The Turin side also boosted their morale by securing the knockout stage of the Champions League with two defeats of Spanish giants Real Madrid.

"I'm glad to meet Inter now because we are in form," the Czech midfielder Nedved said.

Pirate copies of anti-Mafia film Naples

Italy MapRome - Gomorra, is on its way to the Oscars as Italy's official candidate, but counterfeit DVD copies have already hit the streets of Naples - a market controlled by the local mafia whose dealings the film denounces.

"Why the surprise?" Naples anti-mafia, prosecutor Fausto Zuccarelli was quoted as saying by the daily, La Stampa, on Thursday.

He was referring to the Camorra's alleged involvement in distributing the film based on the best-selling book of the same name whose publication in 2006, so angered mob bosses, that they threatened to kill author Roberto Saviano.

Family murder in Italy claims five, including three children

Italy MapVerona, Italy (dpa) - A married couple and their three children were
discovered dead Friday in Verona, Italy, in what investigators believe
to be a family murder, news reports said.

The bodies, each displaying gunshot wounds, were found by a
cleaning woman when she entered the home of the 33-year-old tax
consultant, his lawyer wife, also 33, and their children, aged nine,
six and three, the ANSA news agency reported.

The man is believed to have opened fire against his family before killing himself, the news reports said.

Two pistols were also found at the family home, situated in the

Pine Bark Extract Could Reduce Jetlag Symptoms

Pine Bark Extract Could Reduce Jetlag SymptomsA recent study has articulated that taking pine bark extract for a few days prior to a long flight could reduce the severity and the duration of jet lag symptoms. According to Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study, Pycnogenol's combined activities for better circulation and antioxidant potency are the reasons for such remarkable results.

Italy could use Confederations Cup to blend young players

Johannesburg  - World champions Italy could use next year's Confederations Cup to give young players a chance to gain experience, their assistant coach said Saturday.

Narciso Pezzotti, who was addressing the press conference in place of Marcello Lippi who had not travelled to South Africa for the draw, said that they held the Confederations Cup in high esteem.

"However, we are looking towards the 2010 World Cup and the Confederations Cup will be an ideal opportunity to use some of the younger players and give them exposure ahead of the World Cup," he said.

Inter Milan stretch lead on Juventus through narrow win

Rome  - A goal by Ghana's Sulley Muntari allowed champions Inter Milan to edge visiting Juventus 1-0 Saturday and move six points clear of their opponents atop of the Serie A.

Juve lost their midfield setup after two minutes when Portuguese Tiago Cardoso Mendes hurt himself and had to be replaced by the young Claudio Marchisio, as Inter produced massive attacks throughout the first half.

Dejan Stankovic tried to finish off a counterattack on 12 minutes but met the rough tackle of two Juve defenders and saw Alex Manninger save his header shortly afterward.

Swede star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 25 minutes fired a first shot that caused no problems to Manninger before Sulley Muntari nodded wide off a free kick.

Italy's Berlusconi does it again: Praises Obama's tan

L'Aquila, Italy  - US president-elect Barack Obama is once again the subject of a questionable compliment from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

During a Sunday press conference, Berlusconi told reporters that "We would all like to be tanned as brown as Naomi Campbell and Barack Obama," reported the Italian news agency Ansa.

Nonetheless, Berlusconi's comments seemed to stem from genuine envy for the complexion of Obama, the first African-American to be elected US president.

Fujairah Crown Prince receives Italian businesspersons

Fujairah MapFujairah, Nov. 24th, 2008 --Fujairah Crown Prince HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Mohammed, received here today at Fujairah Ruler's office a delegation of the Italian businesspersons, who are visiting Fujairah upon invitation from the Fujairah Free Zone.

The delegation is led by Giorgi Maskini, mayor of Matcherata city in Italy. It includes over 70 chairmen, managers and owners of major companies in Italy. The meeting discussed available investment opportunities and ways of boosting joint investment and trade cooperation between Fujairah and Italy on one hand, and Italy and the UAE on the other hand.

Modern and Renaissance Italian art gains favour in Berlin

Berlin  - Nothing remotely links the Florentine Renaissance busts of Baccio Bandinelli with the minimalist paintings and sculptures of present day Turin artist Gianni Piacentino.

But by an "art coincidence" the work of both men, albeit with a 450-year gap in between, is currently attracting public attention in Berlin.

Since July 2007 the Bode Museum has been prominently featuring in its Florentine Renaissance Hall the Bust of a Young Man by sculptor Bandinelli (1493-1560).

Art critic Klaus Grimberg, writing in the German Times, quotes one visitor as saying: "If Nefertiti is the most beautiful woman in Berlin's museums, then this youth is the most beautiful man."

Rome's Diocletian Baths offer glimpse of imperial luxury

Italy MapRome - A majestic hall at Rome's Diocletian Baths opened its doors to visitors Tuesday, after 30 years of restoration work at one of antiquity's most elaborate and spectacular thermal spa complexes.

The 40-metre-long and 25-metre-high Aula X or Hall 10, with its vaulted ceilings is one of a series of such halls - the other nine are still not accessible to visitors - that form part of the Baths first inaugurated by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 298 BC.

Over centuries, several Roman emperors continued to expand the spa complex or Thermae from which Rome's modern day railway station Termini, situated nearby, derives its name.

Italian clan leader awaiting extradition to Italy in Netherlands

ItalyAmsterdam - Italian national Giuseppe Nirta, aged 35, will remain in custody in the Netherlands until an Amsterdam court has decided whether or not he will be extradited to Italy to serve a prison sentence of 14 years and 18 months for dealing in drugs.

The leader of the so-called 'Ndrangheta clan from Italy is also a suspect for the German police in the gangland-style massacre.

In August 2007, a total of six Italians were murdered in Duisburg.

Wim de Bruin, spokesman of the Dutch public prosecutor, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Tuesday that Italy had filed its request for the Nirta's arrest last month.

Police protect Italian author Saviano and Rushdie

Roberto SavianoStockholm - Italian author Roberto Saviano and British- Indian author Salman Rushdie were due Tuesday to discuss "Freedom of speech and lawless violence" in Stockholm's Old Town.

Both authors have been threatened for their writings and were under police protection. The discussion was organized by the Swedish Academy, the body that selects the Nobel literature prize.

The Academy said some 450 people were to attend the discussion Tuesday evening.

Number of fake banknotes seized in Italy up by 314 per cent

Italy CurrencyRome - Italian authorities have seized over 241,000 counterfeit banknotes during the first six months of 2008, a haul which marks a 314 per cent increase over the previous six months, a commander of Italy's anti-fraud police said Tuesday.

The "value" of this fake cash amounted to 12.4 million euros, with copies of the 20 euro banknote accounting for over a third of all those seized, Leandro Cuzzocrea said, citing Economy Ministry figures.

During the same period in 2008, authorities also confiscated more than 11,000 counterfeit coins, some 90 per cent of which were copies of the two-euro coin, Cuzzocrea said.

Italy introduces "social card" for the needy

ItalyRome - Italy's conservative government presented Wednesday a state-sponsored credit card which will be provided to needy people to help them cope with the country's current economic recession.

The "carta per gli acquisti" or "social card" as local media have dubbed it, is worth 40 euros (51 dollars) per month and allows bearers to buy goods at chain stores and supermarkets that have adhered to the initiative, Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said.

The government estimates that some 1.3 million people will benefit from the card. It is set to cost the state 450 million euros per year.

Scottish plaids are chic in Bella Italia

Rome  - Colourful tartans well-known in Scotland currently are all the rage in Italy. Anyone with a sense of style from Milan to Messina and from Pordenone to Palermo is wearing plaids.

The imagination of the style-conscious Italians knows no limits. Whether it's handbags, hair bands, pumps, sneakers, bustiers, miniskirts or cigarette lighters, almost everything is available in the new look. Officially, everything is allowed from punk to conservative, for both men and women. The main thing is that plaids are part of the attire.

It's all being described as either British or Scottish style. A style magazine for youths recently featured a cover with the title "Scotland is Close to You. (dpa)

Italy condemns Mumbai attacks, including the killing of Italian man

Rome Italy MapRome  - Italy's government condemned Thursday the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, in which an Italian man was among those killed.

"The attacks in India, that were almost certainly carried out by groups linked to al-Qaeda, confirm that terrorism remains the number one threat to the entire community of nations," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

Frattini, in a television interview, also expressed condolences to the family of the Italian victim, Antonio De Lorenzo.

Iceland - The Chilled Land

Pope BenedictXVIVatican City  - Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman on Thursday renewed an appeal for the release of two Italian Roman Catholic nuns believed to have been abducted from Kenya by Somali Islamists earlier this month.

"More than a fortnight has passed since the two Italian nuns, Sister Maria Teresa Olivero and Sister Caterina Giraudo, were abducted in Kenya, where they are well-known for their generous dedication to the very poor," Father Federico Lombardi said in Vatican statement.

Benedict was following "the protraction of their kidnapping with concern," Lombardi said.

Italian paintings from Dresden sent to Getty

Dresden, Germany - Some 27 masterpieces of Italian art are being shipped from Dresden, Germany to the J Paul Getty Museum on the outskirts of Los Angeles, German officials said Thursday.

The jointly curated show, Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, opens on December 16 and runs till May 3. It also includes 17 paintings from Californian collections.

Because of their value and monumental size, many of the paintings have not left Dresden since the 18th century. The show covers the period 1575 to 1725. dpa

More than 600 immigrants overwhelm Italian island of Lampedusa

ItalyRome- More than 600 illegal immigrants arrived on Southern Italy's Lampedusa overnight, overwhelming the tiny islet's refugee centre, reports said Saturday.

The most recent arrivals swelled numbers in the island's reception centre, which has beds for just 700 people, to over 1,400.

Some 620 illegal immigrants in two boats landed on the island Friday night in stormy seas.

Some 250 of them were due to be flown to other refugee centres later Saturday.

Record high tides flood Venice

Italy MapVenice, Italy - Sea water encroached on large parts of Venice Monday amid warnings that the lagoon city could experience the greatest surge in high tide levels in almost 30 years.

The municipality's Centro Maree, or Tide Centre, which monitors water levels, said high tides have reached 144 centimetres above sea level - a situation that leaves some
96 per cent of the lagoon city's surface area covered by water.

By noon, according to the Centro forecast, the tide which is being pushed by strong winds, could reach as high as 166 centimetres above sea level, a figure last recorded in 1979.

Storm over Berlusconi's satellite TV "conflict of interest" tax

Sky Italia LogoRome - A row intensified in Italy on Monday over the government's proposal to raise value added tax (VAT) on satellite television subscriptions, a move that critics say targets the main competitor to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's media empire.

The provision to double VAT from 10 to 20 per cent was included in a economic crisis package unveiled by the conservative government on Friday.

Opposition leaders say it highlights the "conflict of interest" of Berlusconi, who heads the government while also controlling Italy's largest private television network Mediaset.

Pleased Inter president Moratti to steer clear of winter market

Rome  - Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has played down the importance of his team's lead in the Serie A and quelled rumours of new arrivals when the transfer market opens in January.

Inter's website Monday quoted Moratti as saying that "this is a good moment and there have been problems for the other teams. It was great that Inter played a very good first half (as they beat Napoli 2-1)."

The Italian champions at the weekend beat the Naples guests and now hold a six-point lead over AC Milan, who lost 3-1 at Palermo and trail second-place Juventus on goal difference. Inter have 33 points from 14 games.

Italy and Albania sign 2 billion euros worth of energy deals

ItalyTirana - Italy on Tuesday signed deals worth more than 2 billion euros (2.52 billion dollars) for two power plants in energy-starved Albania.

Contracts for a thermal power plant near the southern city of Fieri for 1 billion euros and wind-powered generators for 1.15 billion euros at Vlora were signed during a visit by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The power generation facilities are expected to help Albania overcome a chronic shortage of electricity, which al leads to blackouts and brownouts with the arrival of winter.

Mourinho: I'd have preferred an Inter winner for Ballon d'Or

Jose Mourinho, Cristiano RonaldoRome - Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho said Tuesday he would rather one of his own players had won the Ballon d'Or which went to Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I'd have preferred that one of our players had won it," the Portuguese coach said when asked about the award going to fellow countryman Ronaldo.

Mourinho said Inter's Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a player who would have deserved the trophy awarded by French magazine France Football.

Study offers new treatment to plantar fasciitis patients

Study offers new treatment to plantar fasciitis patientsPlantar fasciitis is a common and painful foot problem pain. It is an inflammation of the connective tissue called the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the ball of the foot. Its common treatment includes icing the area, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, wearing an orthotic, or resting the foot. A recent study has shown that a new treatment involving steroid injections can give quick relief to patients suffering from this problem.

Italy arrests Moroccan "al-Qaeda" suspects

Italy FlagMilan, Italy - Two Morrocan men suspected of links with al-Qaeda have been arrested in Italy for allegedly planning bomb attacks, including one against Milan's Duomo cathedral.

"The plot was uncovered well before those being investigated were able to procure explosives," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said commenting on Tuesday's arrests.

The 31-year-old Rachid Ilhami, a welder by trade, and his associate Abdelkader Ghafir, 43, a bricklayer, were apprehended in Giussano, a town 25 kilometres north of Milan.

Gay rights activists protest Vatican's stance on UN document

Gay rights activists protest Vatican's stance on UN document Genoa, Italy - A group of gay rights activists in Italy staged Wednesday a protest against the Vatican's refusal to endorse a proposed United Nations resolution calling on governments to de- criminalize homosexuality.

The demonstrators, numbering around 20, unfurled a banner reading "The Vatican is an accomplice in our martyrdom," in front of the offices of the archdiocese of Genoa, the ANSA news agency reported.

The north-western port city is scheduled to host Italy's national Gay Pride celebrations in 2009.

Police: Lap dancers exposed counterfeiters

PIACENZA, Italy, Dec. 4  -- Police say a counterfeiting ring in Piacenza, Italy, was exposed after lap dancers identified bills shoved into their panties as fakes.

Investigators said a former U. S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer and a graphic designer created fake 20 and 100 euro notes that were ''virtually indistinguishable" from real money, ANSA reported Wednesday.

However, police said the bills were spotted as fakes and brought to the attention of authorities by lap dancers and prostitutes frequented by the counterfeiters.

Police said the case marked the first major counterfeiting operation discovered in the country outside of the Naples area. (UPI)

Italian masterpiece from attic fetches £2.84m at London auction

ItalyLondon, Dec 4 : An Italian masterpiece featuring a semi-naked woman, consigned to an attic for 200 years, has sold for 2.84m pounds at an auction in London.

Giambattista Tiepolo’s artwork, Portrait of a lady as Flora, had been hidden in the attic of a French chateau since the 19th Century, and was expected to sell off for 900,000 pounds at the Christie''s sale.

It has been assumed that the reason the picture was kept hidden in the attic by the seller’s grandparents because it shows a woman baring her naked breast.

Illegal sea-borne attempts to reach Italy up 107 per cent in 2008

ItalyRome - Some 25,000 would-be immigrants attempted to reach Italy illegally by sea in January-September 2008 marking a 107 per cent increase compared to the previous year, according to a senior official of the European Union's border security agency Frontex.

Frontex deputy executive director Gil Arias Fernandez, speaking in Rome on Thursday, also singled out what he said was lack of co-operation by Libya in attempts by the EU to curb illegal immigration across the Mediterranean Sea.

Obama a hit among Italian nativity scenes

NAPLES, Italy, Dec. 4  -- A vendor spokesman in Naples, Italy, says police shut down a shopping area offering nativity figurines, including one of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

The unidentified spokesman said police shut down the Via San Gregorio Armeno shopping area of the city in an attempt to stop certain open-air vendors who are suspected of operating without authorization, the Italian news agency, ANSA, reported Wednesday.

Among the nativity statue offerings set to be offered by the Christmas vendors were ones featuring the U.S president-elect. Also included in the holiday theme are Inter Milan soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his coach, Jose Mourinho.

Almost a third of Italians afraid to enter shops, says survey

Almost a third of Italians afraid to enter shops, says survey Rome - Some 28 per cent of Italians are too scared to enter shops lest they be tempted to spend money amid the global financial crisis, a survey published Friday suggests.

The financial crisis has hit Italy with a recession and led to uncertainty in the job market.

Many of those polled for the survey by the Vicenza-based Demos & Pi agency also say they've adopted various belt-tightening measures.

Church death cancels Medvedev's Italy trip

ROME, Dec. 5  -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he has canceled a trip to Italy because of the death of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II.

Medvedev told Italian President Giorgio Napolitano he would be traveling from India to Moscow to honor the memory of Alexy, who died Friday at the age of 79, the Italian news agency, ANSA, reported.

The Russian church has received condolences from Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church despite past tensions that existed between the two religious groups.

A temporarily patriarch will be chosen Saturday by the Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church, Kommersant said. The newspaper said a new patriarch should be elected by May 2009.

Scientists predetermine gender of foals

ROME, Dec. 5  -- Researchers at Italy's Bologna University say they've found a way to choose the gender of foals using frozen sperm and egg cells.

The university's veterinary department said two foals, named Mario and Maria, resulted from the world's first successful procedure to choose the sex of horse embryos.

Horse breeders have pushed for the scientific breakthrough because of the considerable difference in the financial value of male and female horses, the Italian news service ANSA said Friday.

The report said the value of a male thoroughbred can be four or five times that of a female. (UPI)

Menez gives Roma the edge against Chievo

Menez gives Roma the edge against ChievoRome  - Jeremy Menez was the hero for Roma Saturday as he scored a second-half winner to secure a 1-0 win over Chievo and register his side's fourth win in succession.

The Frenchman played one of his best games since joining the Rome club and was rewarded on 69 minutes with a spectacular volley that ensured victory.

Menez first threatened on nine minutes with a dangerous drive while 10 minutes later two defenders managed to block the former Monaco midfielder as he tried to break into the area.

Ronaldinho injured ahead of Serie A weekend

Ronaldinho injured ahead of Serie A weekend Rome - A muscle injury suffered Saturday has sidelined Brazilian star Ronaldinho from a Serie A game AC Milan play this weekend at home to Catania.

Gazzetta. it reported that Ronaldinho hurt himself during the Devils' last training session, forcing coach Carlo Ancelotti to add his name to a long list of absentees.

Midfielders Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini, Clarence Seedorf, defender Daniele Bonera and strikers Filippo Inzaghi and Marco Borriello also won't be available for the Sunday game at the Giuseppe Meazza.

Italian film Gomorrah cleans up at European film festival

Italian film Gomorrah cleans up at European film festival Copenhagen  - The Italian film Gomorrah, about the criminal underworld in Naples, cleaned up Saturday night at the European Film Awards in the Danish capital, receiving five of the 15 top awards.

In addition to receiving the prize as the top European film of 2008, director Matteo Garrone was named best director and Toni Servillo named the best actor.

Servillo's award also included his work in Il Divo (The Star.)

Gomorrah also received the prize for best script, and Garrone's cameraman Marco Onorato was named for the best photography.

Around 260 refugees land on Lampedusa, camps full

Around 260 refugees land on Lampedusa, camps full Rome  - Around 260 refugees from various African countries landed on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday, officials reported.

The would-be immigrants - all were men - were in good health, the authorities said. Their arrival brings to more 1,200 the number of persons in the island's refugee reception centre, a facility designed to contain only 700.

Troubled Torino call back Novellino to replace De Biasi

Troubled Torino call back Novellino to replace De Biasi Rome - Struggling Serie A side Torino have fired coach Gianni De Biasi and called back Walter Novellino, who was still under contract with the Turin club since his dismissal in April.

Torino fired Novellino, 55, with five games left to the end of the 2007-2008 season. He began coaching in 1992 after a good career as offensive midfielder with the same Torino, AC Milan, Perugia and Catania.

UN: Food prices help push up the number of hungry to 963 million

UN: Food prices help push up the number of hungry to 963 million Rome - The number of hungry people in the world soared to 963 million in 2008, an increase of 40 million over the previous year largely due to higher food prices, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday.

The Rome-based FAO warned that the current economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty.

Nigerian cardinal Arinze retires from top Vatican post

Nigerian cardinal Arinze retires from top Vatican post Vatican City - The Vatican announced Tuesday the retirement of Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was touted by many as a strong candidate for the papacy ahead of the 2005 conclave that eventually elected Benedict XVI.

Benedict has accepted the "for age limits" resignation of Arinze as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Holy See said in a statement.

German and Italian clowns cheer Beirut streets

Beirut  - Thirty cheerful clowns from Germany, Italy, Morocco and Lebanon cheered the Lebanese public Tuesday by dancing in the rain in the capital Beirut.

Wearing rainbow-colored wigs and red plastic noses, the clowns put on a show in the main shopping district of Hamra street, bringing cheer to Lebanese children on the second day of the Muslim al-Adha holiday.

Some clowns walked on stilts as others danced, juggled, blew up balloons and took pictures with the crowd that gathered to watch the show in the pouring rain.

"It is meant to introduce street performances and comic relief as a way to deal with tense situations and conflict," said Tonnie Selwood Choeiri, one of the organizers.

Knee injury may end Gattuso's season

Knee injury may end Gattuso's seasonRome  - AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso could be sidelined for the rest of the season due to a knee injury suffered at the weekend in a Serie A game, the club's website reported Tuesday.

Gattuso, 30, is to be examined in Antwerp, Belgium, by the famed orthopaedic surgeon Marc Martens to ascertain a damage to the cruciate ligament in his right knee, which Milan doctors have already diagnosed.

The international twisted his joint early on in a game against Catania, but managed to remain on the pitch until the final whistle. (dpa)

US CENTCOM chief says Mumbai attacks manifest real challenges facing Pakistan

Rome (Italy), Dec. 10 : US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus has said that the Mumbai attacks were of more significance for Pakistan than India, as these attacks help comprehend the magnitude of challenges confronting Islamabad.

Addressing at American Studies Centre in Rome, General David Petraeus said that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were although quite horrible for India also, but for Pakistan this situation was more dangerous than the one that had emanated in the aftermath of 9/11.

"It doesn't mean that these attacks were less dangerous for India, but these attacks have brought to the fore the challenges facing Pakistan", The News quoted him, as saying.

Irish dioxin pork "unlikely" health risk, says EU food watchdog

ItalyParma, Italy  - The dioxin contamination found in Irish pork does not necessarily pose a health risk to humans who ate the product, the European Union's food safety authority (EFSA) said Wednesday.

EFSA said in a statement it based its conclusions on the "limited data" provided to it by the EU executive, the Commission, and on the assumption that exposure to dioxin only began in September.

Berlusconi strides confidently into 2009, despite hurdles

Rome - To understand the challenges facing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2009, it's best to consider the country's distinctive boot shape and its reputation for quality footwear.

Like a person putting on a fine boot, Berlusconi only has to pull hard enough on the boot straps to ensure a snug fit. But, should he pull too hard, he risks splitting the seams and pushing his toes through the fabric.

Similarly, Berlusconi, flush from his victory in April's elections, ends 2008 on a high note, with approval ratings around 60 per cent. But maintaining those figures into 2009 will require applying just the right amount of pressure in just the right place.

Woman dies in flooded tunnel as heavy rains and snow hit Italy

Italy MapRome - Police divers on Thursday pulled the body of a woman from a car submerged in a flooded tunnel near Rome following a night of heavy rains and snowfalls around Italy.

The identity of the woman and the cause of her death were not immediately clear, the ANSA news agency reported.

The tunnel near Monterotondo was among several areas in and around the Italian capital hit by storms that left several motorways and roads blocked.

Authorities urged commuters to use public transport instead of their cars.

Zenga renews coaching contract with Catania

Walter ZengaRome - Serie A side Catania have renewed the contract of coach Walter Zenga until the end of the 2009/2010 season, the Sicily club's web site said Thursday.

Zenga, 48, last season rescued Catania from relegation after taking the helm with seven games left. In the current season, his team sits comfortably at mid-table on 22 points from 15 games.

After a brilliant career as goalkeeper, which included 12 seasons at Inter Milan and 58 caps with Italy's national team, Zenga coached various sides in the U. S., Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. (dpa)

Italy's main union grouping stages nationwide strike

ItalyRome - Italy's largest labour union federation signalled the start of a four-hour nationwide strike Friday with a march by hundreds of its members down the streets of a rainswept Rome.

The leftist CGIL federation is protesting what it says is Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government's "inadequate" response to salaries, pensions and education reform.

However, the strike is being viewed as a show of strength by the CGIL after the country's other two main union groupings, the more moderate CISL and UIL, refused to participate, branding the work stoppage "irresponsible."

Boy feared drowned after falling into Rome's swollen Tiber

Rome - A boy was feared drowned after falling into Rome's Tiber river, which was swollen after days of heavy rain, officials said Saturday.

The young Irish boy was among crowds of curious and anxious onlookers who had come out during the night to look at and take pictures of the river as it threatened to burst its banks.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said early Saturday that the situation had "stabilized."

The Tiber reached a level of 12.5 metres, the highest for decades.

Apart from minor flooding in Monterondo, the Italian capital had managed to keep its feet dry, the mayor said.

"The flood has not passed, but for now, we can put our minds at rest," Alemanno said.

Bologna hammer Torino in relegation showdown

Rome  - Marco Di Vaio scored a brace for Bologna Saturday as they crushed Torino 5-2 in a pulsating game that left both sides in the lower reaches of the Italian Serie A.

Midfielder Simone Barone and his team mate Ignazio Abate twice put Torino ahead, but the hosts never relented and reversed the score from 2-1 largely thanks to Di Vaio's great form.

Barone, a World Cup winner in 2006, on seven minutes scored his first goal this season firing past Francesco Antonioli as the dithering home defenders failed to clear a cross from the right.

Francesco Valiani tried an immediate reply for Bologna on eight minutes, but had his low shot saved, while Torino striker Rolando Bianchi also saw his close-range effort saved on 12 minutes.

Ibrahimovic brace helps Inter Milan to victory over minnows Chievo

Rome  - Serie A leaders Inter Milan beat tail-enders Chievo 4-2 Sunday to open up a nine-point lead on pursuers Juventus and AC Milan, who were due to play a classic tie later Sunday in Turin.

A brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic moved the defending champions on to 39 points from 16 games, while Napoli lie level with Juve and Milan on 30 after a 3-0 defeat of Lecce on Saturday.

Fiorentina beat Catania 2-0, Genoa and Atalanta drew 1-1 in a game that the hosts ended with 10 men against a nine-man Bergamo side.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter marries ballet dancer beau

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter marries ballet dancer beauLondon, Dec 15 : Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's eldest daughter Marina Berlusconi exchanged wedding vows with her ballet dancer beau on December 13.

Silvio''s daughter with first wife Carla Dall''Oglio fell for ballet dancer Maurizio Vanadia when she watched him dance in Swan Lake at Milan''s La Scala.

The occasion also brought Berlusconi's first wife Dall''Oglio, together in the same room for the first time with his second wife, Veronica.

Fiat temporarily halts production at car plants in Italy

Fiat LogoTurin, Italy - Some 48,000 workers at auto maker Fiat began Monday an almost month-long vacation, following the company's decision temporarily to halt production at its factories in Italy, a Fiat spokesman said.

The decision by the Turin-based Fiat - Europe's fifth-biggest car maker by market value - to shut its plants until January 12, comes amid the global economic downturn which has had a major impact on the car market.

Fiat, which also produces cars with the Ferrari and Alfa Romeo brand names, has fared better than many other car manufacturers, also thanks to strong sales of its agricultural sector vehicles.

Gattuso's knee operated successfully

Gennaro GattusoRome - AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso underwent surgery in Antwerp, Belgium, to repair a damaged knee tendon, the club's web site reported on Monday.

Orthopaedic surgeon Marc Martens operated on Gattuso's right knee to rebuild a damaged cruciate ligament.

"The operation was successful. Recovery time is expected to be about six months," Milan said.

The 30-year-old world champion twisted his joint during a league match against Catania on December 7 and will be out for the rest of the season. (dpa)

Troubled Adriano takes early leave for winter break

AdrianoRome - Dark clouds hung over Brazilian striker Adriano as he headed back to his home country for an anticipated winter break that may not be followed by a return to Inter Milan.

The Emperor, as he was dubbed in the days when he wreaked havoc among defences, was to land in Brazil on Monday after leaving the Italian champions a week ahead of schedule with the official explanation of a muscular injury.

As virtually no commentator bought the excuse, coach Jose Mourinho said he expects the 26-year-old forward to rejoin the team when training resumes on January 2.

Kaka hopes for prompt recovery from inflammation

Kaka hopes for prompt recovery from inflammationRome - AC Milan Brazilian star Kaka has said he is not worried about the inflammation that at the weekend sidelined him for the big match with Juventus, the ANSA news agency reported Monday.

"It's nothing serious. This morning's tests were negative and only showed an inflammation at the pelvic region," Kaka said. "I hope to recover as soon as possible, otherwise I'll be back in 2009.

"It may be enough (to rest) until tomorrow or it may take two or three months."

Avalanche alert in northern Italy

Italy MapRome - Heavy rains and strong winds continued to lash Italy on Tuesday, while authorities in the country's northern Piedmont and Val d'Aosta regions warned of possible avalanches due to intense snowfalls.

Near Rome, the Aniene river flooded its banks in several areas, submerging farmland and prompting the evacuation of several homes and factories.

Rescuers also assisted several motorists left stranded with their vehicles stuck in mud in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Italian police nab over 90 mafia suspects

Italy FlagRome - Italian police arrested Tuesday over 90 Sicilian "Cosa Nostra" mafia suspects in early morning raids carried out in Sicily and in Tuscany, officials said.

Those arrested were allegedly plotting to re-organize Cosa Nostra's command structure under the orders of one of Italy's most wanted mafia bosses, Matteo Messina Denaro, who remains on the run, a police statement said.

Some 1,200 carabinieri paramilitary police, backed by helicopter units and anti-drug dog squads, took part in Tuesday's operation, which was mainly conducted in the area near Palermo, Sicily, the statement said.

Pillon replaces Orlandi at helm of Reggina

Giuseppe PillonRome - Italian Serie A strugglers Reggina said Tuesday they have hired coach Giuseppe Pillon to replace Nevio Orlandi after 16 games in a so far disappointing season.

Pillon, 52, takes the helm of the Reggio Calabria club as they lie second-from-last on 12 points next to Torino, who also changed coach last week.

Pillon began coaching in 1993. He had a previous experience in the top flight coaching Chievo from 2005 to 2007.

Palermo, Bologna and bottom side Chievo also changed coach this season. (dpa)

German court bans organized-crime tag on Italian pizza man

GermanyMunich - An Italian restaurant operator won a lawsuit Tuesday against a German book author who claimed he was a mid-level boss in the 'Ndrangheta organized-crime network in Calabria.

Journalist Petra Reski said she was told by a senior Rome policeman that the Italian, who used to run a pizza bar in the central German city of Erfurt, was under suspicion as a mobster.

But the court in Munich said this could not be proved.

World Food Programme appeals for 5.2-billion-dollar aid package

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)Rome - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Tuesday it needs some 5.2 billion dollars in donor funding to provide aid to some 98 million hungry people in 2009.

"As we take care of Wall Street and Main Street, we can't forget the places that have no streets," WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement from the Rome-based agency.

She was referring to the appeal which WFP says is a "fraction" of what is being proposed in financial rescue packages to address the global economic downturn.

Vucinic gets away with celebratory strip

Vucinic gets away with celebratory stripRome  - Roma's Montenegro striker Mirko Vucinic was sanctioned with a simple yellow card Tuesday for taking off his shorts as he celebrated his winning goal in his side's 3-2 win over Cagliari.

Vucinic, 25, scored the winner after a series of mistakes and raced in his underwear toward Roma's fans stronghold in the south curve of Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

His act triggered criticism from many commentators, including Sergio Campana, the president of the Italian footballers association (AIC).

Fiat to revive Topolino mini-car

Fiat to revive Topolino mini-carTurin, Italy  - Fiat is set to revive another old name, the Topolino or "Little Mouse," which it is planning to launch as a new mini car in 2010, Germany's auto-motor-sport magazine reports.

The Topolino, built between 1936-1955, is considered the predecessor to the Fiat 500 - another name which the Italian company has revived with the new retro-look Fiat

Wave of arrests and probes hit Italy's centre-left opposition

Rome - Italy's main opposition centre-left Democratic Party was reeling Wednesday following the arrest of several prominent local politicians linked to alleged cases of corruption.

The Corriere della Sera daily reported that police in Naples served house arrest orders to Ferdinando Di Mezza and Felice Laudadio, two councillors in the city's centre-left local government. They are respectively responsible for urban heritage and housing in the southern city's municipality.

The orders stem from a probe into the awarding of a 400 million euro (548 million dollars) maintenance and catering contract to a local firm, Global Services.

Mafia boss found hanged in Italian prison

ItalyPalermo, Sicily - A Sicilian mafia boss caught in a massive police sweep against "Cosa Nostra" has been found hanged in a prison cell just hours after his arrest.

The 52-year-old Gaetano Lo Presti was among more than 90 mafiosi nabbed during police raids in Sicily and Tuscany on Tuesday.

An investigation was underway Wednesday on how Lo Presti managed to commit what appears to have been a suicide in Palermo's Pagliarelli prison late on Tueday night, officials said.

AC Milan to introduce Beckham at weekend

AC Milan to introduce Beckham at weekendRome  - Serie A giants AC Milan announced Wednesday that they will officially introduce English star David Beckham Saturday evening at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.

Beckham is to remain at Milan until March, on loan from US club Los Angeles Galaxy.

The 33-year-old midfielder is expected to undergo medical tests over the weekend and watch Milan's home game Sunday against Udinese ahead of the Serie A winter break.

Berlusconi as Superman is his Christmas gift to grandchildren

Berlusconi as Superman is his Christmas gift to grandchildren Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he has surprised his grandchildren with an early Christmas present: a Superman-like doll with facial features resembling his own.

"My grandchildren now really feel like the descendants of a super- hero," Berlusconi was quoted as saying Thursday by the online site, Tgcom.

Rome ponders return of gladiators to Colosseum

Rome - Centuries after their blood-sport was banned, duelling gladiators in full combat gear could soon be making a comeback in the most famous fight arena of them all - Rome's Colosseum.

"Rather than enshrine (historical sites) we need to make them more spectacular," says the Italian capital's archaeological superintendent Umberto Broccoli, whose brainchild the idea is.

More than 1,500 years since the last recorded gladiator bout in Rome, it is still possible to meet near the Colosseum, men - and some women too - clad in armour and brandishing replica swords and spears.

Heel gets lucky in wind lottery - veteran Jaerbyn's podium record

Werner HeelVal Gardena, Italy - Werner Heel of Italy made the most of favourable wind conditions during his run to win a super-g on Friday in which third-placed Swede Patrick Jaerbyn became the oldest podium finisher in World Cup history.

Heel, 26, clocked 1 minute 35.04 seconds in front of a home crowd to claim his second career win.

Didier Defago of Switzerland was second in 1:35.47 and Jaerbyn, who turns 40 in April, came third on the demanding Saslong piste in 1:35.49.

Lazio beat Palermo to close dismal run

Lazio beat Palermo to close dismal runRome  - Lazio edged out visiting Palermo 1-0 Saturday in a game that the Sicilian guests ended with ten men at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

Veteran Tommaso Rocchi came on in the second half to score the winner, deflecting home a low cross from Frenchman Mourad Meghni.

The win allowed Lazio to end a bad run that saw them notch two meagre points in five games. It moved on to sixth place on 27 points as the Serie A gears up for a three-week winter break after its 17th round.

Beckham happy to join AC Milan

Beckham happy to join AC MilanRome  - AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani Saturday presented David Beckham to Italian media and fans, welcoming the English star as he joins the Devils on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy

The 33-year-old Beckham is to remain at Milan until March 9, after which he will rejoin the US team in California.

"Good evening everybody and first of all a heartfelt thanks to all of you," Beckham said at a press conference at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.

Germany rediscovers its Roman roots

Berlin - A rediscovery of a Roman battlefield studded with old weapons in Germany has excited archaeologists this week and thrown new light on a myth-shrouded conflict between Rome and its neighbours.

In the 19th century, German historians rejected the image of their ancestors as squabbling barbarians and honed a new picture of plucky Teutonic tribes who united to repel the invading legions of Rome.

Ever since, German schoolchildren have been taught that Germany was mostly free of the Roman yoke, and were told to use the neutral term "Migration of the Peoples" for the later Germanic invasion of the crumbling empire.

Juventus beat Atalanta to stay second six points behind Inter Milan

Rome - Juventus remained six points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan thanks to a 3-1 win Sunday away to Atalanta in the last Serie A game before the start of a three-week winter break.

Goals from Juve captain Alessandro Del Piero, Nicola Legrottaglie and Brazilian Amauri pushed Juve on to 36 points from 17 games, while Inter lead on 42 after winning
2-1 at Siena on Saturday, when Lazio beat Palermo 1-0.

In other Sunday action, strugglers Torino beat Napoli 1-0, Fiorentina won 1-0 away to Sampdoria and a brace from Japanese striker Takayuki Morimoto sank Roma as they crashed 3-2 at Catania.

Northern Italy struck by strong earthquake

Northern Italy struck by strong earthquake Rome - A strong and sustained earthquake registering 5.2 on the Richter scale was reported Tuesday in parts of northern Italy, Italy media reported.

According to reports, the epicentre of the quake lay between the cities of Parma and Reggio Emilia and took place at around 4:25 pm (1525 GMT).

Italian civil defence agencies were investigating whether there were any casualties or property damage in the quake, which was felt from Genoa in the west to Florence and Venice in the east. (dpa)

Innerhofer upsets favourites for first World Cup win

Bormio, Italy  - Christof Innerhofer of Italy claimed a first alpine ski World Cup victory when he clinched the men's downhill before home fans in Bormio on Sunday.

Innerhofer, who was the first starter, set the pace in 2 minutes 03.55 seconds and watched as all the favourites failed to match his time on a bumpy and icy Stelvio course.

"It's a dream result for me," he said. "I saw my time and knew it was a good one."

Austrians Klaus Kroell and Michael Walchhofer were second and third, with Kroll 0.32 seconds behind and current downhill leader Walchhofer 0.95 seconds back.

Kuitunen clinches women's Tour de Ski title

Val di Fiemme, Italy  - Finland's Virpi Kuitunen clinched the women's Tour de Ski title for a second time by defending her overall lead in the nine-kilometre freestyle on Sunday.

Kuitunen, who won the cross-country ski series in 2007 and was second last year, held off compatriot Aino Kaisa Saarinen, with Slovenia's Petra Majdic third, on the seventh and last stage.

Kuitunen had recaptured the overall lead after winning a 10-kilometre classic technique race on Saturday.

The men's finale - an 11km freestyle - is scheduled for later. (dpa)

Heavy snowfalls hit northern Italy, snarl transport

Italy MapMilan, Italy - Heavy snowfalls and rainstorms in northern Italy on Wednesday disrupted air and road transport and delayed the opening of many schools after the Christmas holiday break.

All flight activity at Milan's two airports, Malpensa and Linate, was canceled until 1400 GMT due to weather conditions which have also prevented ground staff from arriving to work, officials said.

Several stretches of the highway network connecting Milan and other major northern cities such as Turin and Genova were closed after the icy conditions were deemed dangerous for motorists.

Moggi father and son avoid prison despite guilty verdict

Luciano MoggiRome - Luciano Moggi, former general manager of Juventus, and his son Alessandro Thursday were found guilty of threatening several footballers in a corruption trial, Italian media reported.

Luciano Moggi was sentenced to 18 months and his son to 14, but neither will be imprisoned, as their offence was pardoned by a law in 2006.

The Moggis were among the founders of GEA, a firm of footballers' agents, which handled the contract of many Serie A and Serie B players between 2001 and 2006.

Silvio Berlusconi: Putin says EU mission to Ukraine imminent

Silvio Berlusconi: Putin says EU mission to Ukraine imminent   Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin assured him that a proposed European Union mission to Ukraine will take place imminently, paving the way for the resumption of Russian gas supplies to the 27-nation bloc.

Berlusconi was speaking to reporters following a "long" evening telephone conversation with Putin, according to the ANSA news agency.

Cocaine haul seized in Naples in frozen calamari

CocaineNaples, Italy - Police in Naples' sea port discovered Friday 15 kilograms of cocaine concealed amongst frozen calamari in a container shipped from Peru, news reports said.

Acting on a tip-off, authorities intercepted the vessel carrying the cargo as it approached Naples, a major Mediterranean gateway for clandestine imports into Europe.

The drugs, valued at an estimated value of 2 million euros (2.7 million dollars), emerged along with 1,600 boxes of calamari squid, which was were being kept refrigerated at minus 18 degrees Celsius. (dpa)

Call to boycott Jewish shops in Italy widely condemned

Italy FlagRome - In Italy the leader of a tiny retailer union's proposal to shun Jewish-owned shops to protest Israel's Gaza incursion has drawn wide condemnation, with Rome's mayor, a former prominent member of a neo-fascist party, taking the lead.

Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Thursday visited Rome's ancient Ghetto - where Jews were once segregated - and in a show solidarity, purchased a tie and several shirts from Jewish shopkeepers.

"It (the boycott) is a folly that takes us back to the past," Alemanno said, referring to the racist laws introduced by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1938.

Italy to stress immigration problem by holding G8 meeting on islet

Italy MapLampedusa, Italy - Italy's interior minister said Friday that a meeting with his Group of Eight (G8) counterparts will be held in May on Lampedusa, the Mediterranean islet where thousands of would-be immigrants arrive each year.

"We want the other ministers to understand what it is like living with the phenomenon of illegal immigration," Minister Roberto Maroni said during a visit to Lampedusa.

Italian islet hit by new immigrant landings

Italy FlagLampedusa, Italy - Around 490 would-be immigrants arrived early Saturday on the Italian islet of Lampedusa, placing further strain on what officials say are already overcrowded reception facilities.

A coastguard patrol sighted the main group of 324 would-be immigrants on a vessel adrift some 60 nautical miles from Lampedusa shortly after midnight.

The vessel was escorted to the islet, while a few hours later, another boat with over 200 people on board also managed to reach land.

Milan coach Ancelotti: Beckham not to start against Roma

Milan  - AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said that former England captain David Beckham would not be starting Sunday's Serie A game against Roma.

But Ancelotti said that Beckham, who has joined Milan on a three- month loan deal while his American club LA Galaxy is not playing, is match fit although he has not played a competitive game for two months.

Speaking after Saturday's final training session ahead of Sunday evening's game, Ancelotti said he could envisage a situation whereby Beckham could extend his stay with AC Milan.

"He can make an important contribution," Ancelotti said. (dpa)

Kircheisen wins last combined World Cup mass start event

Kircheisen wins last combined World Cup mass start event Val di Fiemme, Italy  - Bjoern Kircheisen of Germany won the last World Cup mass start event to be held in Nordic combined skiing on Saturday.

Kircheisen had 258.5 points from a 10-kilometres cross country mass start portion and two ensuing rounds of ski-jumping for his second season win and 13th in his career.

Austrian Bernhard Gruber trailed by just half a point in second place with 285.0 points. Jan Schmid of Norway was third with 254.7 points.

Protests staged in Italy against Israeli attacks on Gaza

Protests staged in Italy against Israeli attacks on Gaza Rome  - Thousands of people, many waving Palestinian flags, on Saturday held marches and rallies in the Italian cities of Milan, Turin and Florence to protest the Israeli military incursion in the Gaza Strip.

Scuffles broke out when some demonstrators set fire to an Israeli flag while others attempted to stop them during an afternoon march in downtown Milan, news reports said.

Also in Milan, several hundred Muslims knelt in prayer near the city's main railway station.

Genoa beat Torino after Serie A break

Genoa beat Torino after Serie A breakRome  - Genoa began 2009 in convincing fashion Saturday, beating struggling visitors Torino 3-0 in a game that reopened the Serie A league after a three-week winter break.

Goals from Giuseppe Biava, Serb Bosko Jankovic and Brazil's Thiago Motta helped Genoa retain their unbeaten home record after nine games at the Luigi Ferraris stadium despite the absence of top striker Diego Milito.

Underdogs Cagliari hold Inter Milan to home draw

Underdogs Cagliari hold Inter Milan to home draw Rome  - Inter Milan drew 1-1 at home Saturday against Cagliari, who stopped an eight-game winning run by the Serie A champions as the Italian league resumed after a three-week winter break.

Robert Acquafresca put the guests ahead in the second half, triggering a furious reaction from Inter, which was rewarded when Zlatan Ibrahimovic levelled with 14 minutes left.

Explosion rocks building in southern Italy

Bari, Italy  - An explosion on Sunday ripped through a three-story building in the southern Italian city of Bari, leaving at least four people trapped in the rubble, officials said.

Firefighters were at the scene searching for the missing persons whose condition was not immediately known, Bari rescue services official, Luca Cari, told the Sky TG24 television news channels.

A gas cylinder may have caused the blast in the building which is situated in the Adriatic port city's San Girolamo district, Cari said. dpa

Juventus close in on leaders Inter Milan

Rome  - A free kick from Alessandro Del Piero helped Juventus beat Siena 1-0 Sunday to move within four points of Serie A leaders Inter Milan, who Saturday drew
1-1 at home to Cagliari.

Third-placed AC Milan can close to within seven points of Inter if they win away to Roma late Sunday, while Fiorentina were stunned 2-1 at home by lowly Lecce 2-1 and remained level with Genoa, who beat Torino 3-0 Saturday.

Napoli edged Catania 1-0 to draw level with Milan, Palermo beat Atalanta 3-2, Udinese and Sampdoria drew 1-1, Lazio won 3-2 at lowly Reggina through a hat-trick from Macedonian Goran Pandev and Bologna drew 1-1 with bottom side Chievo. dpa

Fiat marketing boss to join Volkswagen: report

fiat logoStuttgart - Fiat chief marketing officer Luca de Meo is to join Germany's Volkswagen group, the trade publication auto motor und sport reported Tuesday, citing business sources in Italy.

The report said de Meo, 41, who is also chief executive of Alfa Romeo and the newly launched Abarth brand, was bowing out because of differences with Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne.

The report said De Meo had come under fire for not doing enough to increase Alfa Romeo's sales.

Neither Volkswagen nor Fiat would comment on the report. (dpa)

Italy urges Brazil to hand over fugitive leftist

Italy FlagRome - Italian authorities appealed Wednesday to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to "reverse" a decision which may help an imprisoned Italian leftist fugitive win status as a political refugee and avoid extradition.

Brazil's justice ministry said Tuesday that Cesare Battisti, who is wanted in Italy in connection with four killings in the 1970s, should be allowed to stay in Brazil because of evidence "based on the fear of persecution" if he is returned to Italy.

The decision appeared to contradict a ruling in November by Brazil's National Committee for Refugees, which recommended extradition.

Ferrari team boss Domenicali criticises KERS as a waste of money

Madonna di Campiglio, Italy - Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali strongly criticised Wednesday the introduction of the new kinetic energy recovery system
(KERS) to Formula One for the 2009 season as a waste of money.

"It's throwing money out the window," Domenicali said at a Ferrari media meeting in Madonna di Campiglio.

Ferrari tested their car's KERS system for the first time on Monday at the Mugello circuit in Tuscany but Domenicali said that the current global financial crisis meant that it was the wrong time to introduce such a costly system.

"However, Formula One will come out stronger from the crisis," added Domenicali.

Top Italian rabbi accuses pope of reversing interfaith dialogue

pop benedict xviRome  - A leading Italian Jewish religious leader has accused Pope Benedict XVI of moving to cancel "50-years" of work aimed at improving relations between Roman Catholics and Jews.

Elia Enrico Richetti, chief rabbi of Venice, made the remark in an article in which he explained the reasons why Italy's Jewish religious leaders intend to boycott an annual Church celebration of Judaism scheduled for Saturday.

Fiat to start production of Punto cars in Serbia in March

fiat logoBelgrade- Italian carmaker Fiat will begin in March the production of its Punto automobile in Serbian factory Zastava, Belgrade media reported.

Director of Zastava factory Zoran Radojevic said the agreement between Fiat and Zastava will be signed next week.

Radojevic didn't specify the amount of the production but said the factory, situated in central Serbian town of Kragujevac, can produce 20,000 cars per year and with "minimal investment" the capacity can be upgraded to 40,000 per year.

Swedish king and queen to make state visit to Italy

SwedenStockholm- Swedish King Carl Gustaf is to pay a state visit to Italy along with Queen Silvia in March, the royal palace and Swedish foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The royals were to be accompanied by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and a delegation of Swedish business leaders.

Swedish State Secretary Frank Belfrage said the March 24-27 visit offered "an opportunity to deepen relations and to discuss concrete projects."

Signhild Arnegard Hansen, chairwoman of the confederation of Swedish Enterprise, said some 20 companies were to accompany the royals and attend a seminar in Milan.

Hamilton is the man to beat for F1 title, says Ferrari

Lewis HamiltonMadonna di Campiglio, Italy - Title holder Lewis Hamilton will be the man to beat as Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen set their sights on the 2009 Formula One world title.

But Brazil's Massa vowed on Thursday at Ferrari's annual winter retreat in the Alps that he will give the McLaren driver Hamilton another big fight.

"The most important thing is to be world champion. I am probably in the best position in the career," he said. "Everyone starts from zero after the rule changes. But Lewis is probably our biggest rival."

"Angel Face" US student goes on trial for murder in Italy

Perugia, Italy - A media frenzy surrounded the opening Friday of a trial in which a US college student and her Italian former boyfriend are accused of sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate.

Scores of reporters, including many from the US and Britain, packed a courthouse in Perugia where Amanda Knox from Seattle and Raffaele Sollecito appeared in front of an eight-member jury, the ANSA news agency reported.

The two were indicted in October for the murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher, found semi-naked with her throat cut, in the apartment she shared with Knox in 2007.

Ecclestone rooting for Massa; hails Vettel

Sebastian VettelMadonna di Campiglio, Italy - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Sebastian Vettel is the most promising young driver but is rooting for Felipe Massa in the 2009 title race.

Speaking at a Ferrari journalist get-together in Madonna di Campiglio Ecclestone said that Vettel was doing a good job. "He is very talented."

Vettel last season became the youngest-ever winner of a Grand Prix when he took the chequered flag at the Italian GP in Monza.

Italian foreign minister stresses Syrian role in Gaza peace efforts

ItalyRome - Speaking ahead of a Middle East visit, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Syria can play an important role in ensuring the success of an Egyptian-brokered end to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

"Divisions have emerged" between Hamas representatives in the Gaza Strip and the militant Islamist group's exiled leadership in Syria over a ceasefire proposal to end the Israeli military offensive, Frattini said Thursday in an interview with Adnkronos International
(AKI) news agency.

Italian mountaineers die in Mont Blanc range

Italian mountaineers die in Mont Blanc range Aosta, Italy  - Four Italian mountaineers from the Piedmont region have died on the French side of the Mont Blanc massiv, Italian media reported on Sunday.

French mountain rescue services began a search for the four climbers when they did not arrive at their mountain hut on Saturday evening.

Although the circumstances of the accident are still unclear, Italian media reported that it occurred at around 3,600 metres, on Aiguille du Midi, a 3,843 metre-peak near to Mont Blanc.

The climbers' bodies were brought to the French town of Chamonix. dpa

Catholic Church blocks plans of atheist bus adverts in Italy

Italy FlagLondon, Jan 19 : Plans of putting atheist slogans on buses in Italy, like the ones in Britain, have been blocked by the Roman Catholic Church.

The adverts reading ‘The bad news is that God doesn''t exist. The good news is that you don''t need him’ were supposed to appear on vehicles on the streets of Genoa.

The city had been chosen because it is home to the head of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, an outspoken opponent of artificial insemination and gay marriage.

Manchester City fail to lure in Kaka

Manchester City fail to lure in KakaRome - AC Milan fans Tuesday were relieved by the news that Brazilian star Kaka turned down a massive offer from Manchester City and decided to remain with the Devils.

Club owner and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gave the announcement Monday night through two television channels, thus putting an end to speculations that began last week and triggered protests from hundreds of Milan fans.

"Kaka stays at Milan. It's a success for Kaka. He resisted and I'm happy that Milan have the honour to field among his great players a man like him," Berlusconi said.

New immigrant landings hit southern Italy

Italy MapRome - A further 448 would-be immigrants arrived Tuesday morning in southern Italy, with almost half landing on the islet of Lampedusa.

The first group of 220 - including seven women and 28 children - was rescued by a coast guard patrol and taken to Lampedusa shortly before dawn, the ANSA news agency reported.

Another group of 228, including 34 women and one infant child, was also brought to safety after the coast guard found them adrift on a boat some 30 nautical miles from the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, ANSA said.

Top Fiat official says Turin giant is in talks with Chrysler

Fiat LogoRome - Fiat deputy chairman John Elkann said Tuesday that the Turin-based carmaker is in talks with Chrysler amid reports of a possible purchase by the Italian company of a majority stake in the ailing US producer.

"It is no secret that we are talking. It has been a while that we are in talks," Elkann, a heir of the Agnelli family which controls Fiat, was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Elkann indicated more details on a possible deal would be available following a Fiat statement later Tuesday and a meeting of the company's board scheduled for Thursday.

Ibrahimovic and Del Piero win 2008 football awards

Zlatan IbrahimovicRome - The Association of Italian footballers (AIC) has named Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic best Serie A player of 2008 at a ceremony held in Milan, the AIC web site reported.

Italian media Tuesday showed pictures of the Inter Milan striker smiling as he held the Oscar of football, a golden statue of a footballer.

Ibra, 27, was also voted best foreign player in the league, an award he already secured in 2005, and won a further prize for scoring the best goal of 2008, a spectacular heel flick against Bologna.

Pope Benedict offers prayers for Obama's success

Pope Benedict XVI, Barack ObamaVatican City - Pope Benedict XVI in a telegram on Tuesday offered US president-elect Barack Obama prayers that God may grant him "unfailing wisdom and strength" in carrying out his new responsibilities.

"Under your leadership may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to cooperate in the building of a truly just and free society," Benedict told Obama just a few hours before the inauguration ceremonies.

UN official says Italy must evacuate migrants from crowded centre

ItalyRome - Italy's decision to keep hundreds of would-be immigrants in an overcrowded reception centre on a tiny island poses a security and sanitary risk, a spokeswoman for the United Nations' refugee agency warned Wednesday.

Laura Boldrini, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the "unsustainable conditions" were due to recent Italian government provisions seeking the immediate repatriation of immigrants entering the country illegally by sea.

Milan top of Serie A fan table

AC Milan LogoMilan - Spectator numbers are on the rise in the Serie A in the first half of the season with an average of 24,825 fans attending matches each weekend, up 2,395 on last year and 5,633 ahead of the 2006/2007 season.

AC Milan top the fan table with an average home attendance of 60,067 spectators, followed by city rivals Inter on 51,637. AS Roma attracted an average of 41 225 while Napoli managed 38,658 and Lazio 36,407.

Fiat 2008 fourth quarter profit plunges 69.8 per cent

fiat logoTurin, Italy - Italian industrial group Fiat reported Thursday a 69.8 per cent drop in its 2008 fourth-quarter profit in the face of a global economic slump which has cut demand for cars, the company's main product.

Turin-based Fiat, which earlier this week announced possible merger plans with US carmaker Chrysler, said net profit in the final quarter fell to 180 million euros (232 million dollars) compared to 597 million euros for the same period in 2007.

Full year profit was down 16.2 per cent from euro 2.05 billion in 2007 to euro 1.72 billion.

Nesta back at AC Milan after treating back pain

Alessandro NestaRome - AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta has returned to Italy after a long period spent in the United States to treat a back problem, the Devils web site reported Thursday.

"I'm going to (Milan's camp in) Milanello to start training and when I'm fine I'll play," Nesta said.

The full-back, who turns 33 in March, went to Florida in November to undergo treatment for a lower-back pain that had sidelined him since the summer.

"I suffered for a long time but now I took the problem seriously because there was a way to come out of it," he said.

Poor weather disrupts women's World Cup meet

Italy MapCortina d'Ampezzo, Italy - World Cup organizers were forced Thursday to call off a third attempt to hold a women's downhill training run as poor weather continued to hamper the meeting in Cortina d'Ampezzo.

The downhill scheduled for Friday on the Olimpia delle Tofana course will now be cancelled as the race cannot be held without a training run.

The race was itself a replacement for a cancelled downhill at Lake Louise, Canada in early December.

Heavy snow had forced organizers to cancel the downhill training runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, while a super giant slalom initially scheduled for Thursday had also been called off.

Berger edges win in biathlon sprint

Berger edges win in biathlon sprintAnterselva, Italy  - Tora Berger of Norway edged Darya Domracheva of Belarus Thursday to win the 7.5-kilometre sprint in the women's biathlon World Cup.

Berger clocked 21 minutes 25.5 seconds to beat Domracheva by 8.1 seconds after both had a penalty round at Anterselva, Italy.

Kati Wilhelm of Germany was 20.7 seconds back in third place after one penalty round.

Wilhelm, winner of last year's race, moves to third overall in the standings on 437 points, behind leader Svetlana Slepzova of Russia (481) and compatriot Ekaterina Iourieva (473).

Netaji died in Taihoku air crash: Italian Envoy

Netaji Subhash Chandra BoseKolkata, Jan 23, : Italian Ambassador in India, Alessandro Quaroni said on Firday that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose died in 1945, in an air crash at Taihoku and therefore there is no point in undertaking further research.

Addressing the media at Subhash Chandra Bose''s ancestral house on his 113th anniversary, Quaroni said, "I personally do not see the point of research because unfortunately, the person, Netaji died, but his message lived on and still remains."

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi in hot water over rape comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiLondon, Jan 26 : Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has fuelled a furore yet again by saying that women in the country were so beautiful that they needed military escorts to avoid being raped.

And now, the Itlalian premier has landed in soup over his comments, which came in response to questions about his proposal to deploy 300,000 soldiers in the streets to fight crime.

The move came in line with a series of violent attacks, including a rape in Rome on New Year''s Eve and another outside the capital.

Lindell-Vikarby triumphs in super-g; Vonn extends lead

Jessica Lindell-VikarbyItaly - Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby claimed her first World Cup victory Monday as the favourites slipped up in a women's super-g on Monday.

The 24-year-old posted 1 minute 25.13 seconds on Cortina's Tofane piste for a comfortable 0.81-second lead over 19-year-old Austrian Anna Fenninger.

Third was Switzerland's Andrea Dettling, 0.87 seconds behind, who with Fenninger enjoyed a first podium finish.

Lindell-Vikarby's best previous finish was a third place in a super-g at Lake Louise, Canada on December 2, 2007.

Venice Film Festival to honour "Toy Story" director

Italy FlagVenice, Italy - US animator John Lasseter known for family- viewing box-office hits such as Toy Story and A Bug's Life, is to be bestowed with the 2009 Venice Film Festival's Career Golden Lion award, organizers announced Monday.

Lasseter will share the award with the Walt Disney Company-owned Pixar Animation Studios the producers of Toy Story as well as other well-received animated films including Finding Nemo (2003) and Ratatouille (2007).

Lasseter will pick up the Career Golden Lion at a ceremony held during the Festival which runs from September 2 to 12.

Juventus may sell Iaquinta, eye young Argentine Salvio

Juventus may sell Iaquinta, eye young Argentine SalvioRome - Italian football giants Juventus Turin are considering the sale of striker Vincenzo Iaquinta to Russian club Zenit St Petersburg and appear close to buy young Argentine star Eduardo Salvio, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tuesday.

Zenit reportedly offered 10 million euros (13.2 million dollars) for the 29-year-old forward, who found little room in his two seasons at the Juve, mostly due to frequent injuries.

Italian islet protests governments migrant policy

ItalyLampedusa, Italy  - Angry at the Italian government's decision to open a new immigrant detention centre on their islet, hundreds of Lampedusa's inhabitants Tuesday staged a protest march.

The demonstration was organized by Lampedusa's local authorities who also called on shopkeepers and other businesses to remain shuttered in solidarity.

Earlier this month Italy's conservative government said it would no longer transfer would-be immigrants from Lampedusa to other reception centres in Italy, but instead build a new centre on the island where new arrivals would be identified before being returned to their home countries.

Italy riled by Brazil's sheltering of former terrorist

Brazil Rome - Italian anger at Brazil's decision not to hand over a convicted murderer and former leftist terrorist intensified Tuesday and threatened to spill over onto the football pitch.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini following talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decided to recall Rome's ambassador to Brasilia Micele Valensise "for consultations," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

The move followed the "grave decision" on Monday by Brazil's top prosecutor to call for extradition proceedings against Cesare Battisti to be dropped, the statement said.

Panucci could leave Roma after row with coach

Panucci could leave Roma after row with coach Rome  - Veteran defender Christian Panucci appears set to leave Roma after a row over his refusal to sit on the bench for last weekend's game at Napoli.

The Serie A side Tuesday wrote on their web site that they feel that Panucci, 35, "has lacked respect toward his teammates, the coach, the club and more than anything the fans."

Roma went on to say that it "does not tolerate this kind of behaviour."

Lufthansa Italia set for maiden flight next Monday

Lufthansa Italia Frankfurt - Lufthansa Italia, the new airline which is set to challenge Alitalia in Italy's skies, is to make its maiden flight on Monday, owner Lufthansa said Wednesday in Frankfurt.

Lufthansa shied away from an invitation to take over unprofitable Alitalia and has instead been buying jets to found a new line, based in the prosperous northern city of Milan rather than the capital Rome.

The Germans already own a short-haul Italian airline, Air Dolomiti. All Lufthansa's foreign units have been acquisitions.

Inter Milan beat Catania despite dismissal

Inter Milan beat Catania despite dismissal Rome  - Dejan Stankovic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were on target Wednesday to help Serie A leaders Inter Milan overcome the dismissal of Sulley Muntari and clinch a 2-0 win away to Catania.

Second-placed Juventus suffered a 2-1 beating at Udinese and slipped six points behind Inter while AC Milan drew 1-1 at home to Genoa and Roma beat Palermo 2-1.

Fiorentina won 2-1 against Napoli, Sampdoria beat Lazio 3-1, Cagliari beat Siena 1-0, Bologna won 1-0 at Atalanta, 10-man Chievo and Lecce drew 1-1 and Torino and Reggina drew 0-0. dpa

Italy to deport 500 Tunisian refugees, minister says

Italy to deport 500 Tunisian refugees, minister says Rome  - The Italian government said Wednesday evening it would deport about 500 Tunisian refugees from the southern island of Lampedusa.

The refugees will be repatriated over two months, said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, according to the ANSA news agency, following an agreement reached with the Tunisian government to curb illegal immigration.

It was a difficult task to identify the refugees, but, as a first step, about 100 Tunisians would get deportation orders and will leave the island in the coming days.

Roma lose Cassetti to injury, could retain disgruntled Panucci

Roma edge Inter Milan to win Italian CupRome - Roma defender Marco Cassetti will be sidelined for two months due to a torn muscle in his right leg, the Serie A side's web site reported Thursday. Cassetti, 31, sustained the injury late in the Roma's 2-1 victory over guests Palermo Wednesday night.

His long layoff reopens the door for Christian Panucci, 35, who appeared set on leaving Roma after a row over his refusal to sit on the bench for last weekend's game at Napoli.

Vatican shelves plans for Galileo statue

Galileo GalileiVatican City - Plans to crown the Roman Catholic Church's rehabilitation of Galileo Galilei by placing a statue of the Italian astronomer in the Vatican, have been "indefinitely suspended" a top church official said Thursday.

But the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, confirmed the Holy See is organizing a series of conferences commemorating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope.

Ravasi was speaking at a news conference in which he outlined the Vatican's participation in the United Nations-designated International Year of Astronomy - for which

UN: Conflict has worsened Gaza's food shortages

UN: Conflict has worsened Gaza's food shortages Rome - The recent conflict in the Gaza Strip has badly damaged the territory's agriculture sector exacerbating food shortages, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Friday.

"Almost all of Gaza's 13,000 families who depend on farming, herding and fishing have suffered damage to their assets during the recent conflict and many farms have been completely destroyed," the Rome-based FAO said in a statement.

Italian footballers to protest doping ban for footballers

Inter Milan move alone at top of Serie ARome - Italian footballers are to protest the one-year doping ban handed down to Daniele Mannini and Davide Possanzini by kicking off all this weekend's Serie A and B matches 15 minutes later than scheduled.

The players' union AIG gave the green light for the move Friday, the first time in 13 years that Italian footballers have taken strike action.

Juventus reject Brazil's call for Amauri

Rome  - Italian Serie A side Juventus have said they will not allow their striker Amauri to play with the Brazilian national team for a friendly against Italy on February 10 in London, Italian media reported Sunday.

"No request arrived (from Brazil) and even if it did, it would be too late. We would not accept it," Juve president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli said.

"We talked with the footballer, who is now aware of (our decision). The responsibility for the choice is ours. We must focus on the next games of Juve and we want him to stay with us."

Torching of Indian immigrant prompts political row in Italy

Silvio BerlusconiRome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government came under fire on Monday for allegedly fostering anti-immigrant sentiment after an Indian man was brutally beaten and set alight at the weekend.

Opposition leader Walter Veltroni said the attack was due to "xenophobic preaching and a climate of hate and fear" created by Berlusconi's centre-right administration.

The 35-year-old immigrant, from the northern Indian state of Punjab, was attacked early on Sunday while he was sleeping on a bench at a railway station in Nettuno, some
60 kilometres south of Rome.

Mutu's brace sinks Bologna

Mutu's brace sinks BolognaRome  - Adrian Mutu scored a brace Monday as Fiorentina won 3-1 away to Bologna in a Serie A game called off Sunday due to heavy snowfall.

Bologna's defence was in trouble on six minutes as both captain Claudio Terzi and goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli failed to intervene allowing the Romanian to connect with Riccardo Montolivo's long feed and volley home from few metres off.

Ten minutes later, Montolivo again split the defence and sent away the striker, who came face to face with Antonioli and beat him to notch his 101st goal with Italian sides.

Italian euthanasia row woman moved from clinic

ItalyUdine, Italy - A comatose woman at the centre of a bitter euthanasia debate in Italy arrived at the old-peoples home Tuesday where doctors plan to switch off her life-support system.

Pro-life activists heckled the ambulance carrying 38-year old Eluana Englaro as it left a clinic in the northern city of Lecco late Monday night, shouting: "Don't let her die!"

The case of Englaro, who has spent the last 17 years in a vegetative state after a car accident, has reignited debate in Catholic Italy over euthanasia and its legal technicalities.

Italy cements its position as the EU's foodie favourite

Italy MapBrussels - Italy confirmed its position as Europe's most gourmet nation on Tuesday as two more Italian products were awarded a place on the European Union's list of protected delicacies.

Radishes from the north-eastern town of Verona and saffron from the island of Sardinia became the latest additions to the register of almost 800 eponymous goodies which can only be named after a specific place if they were actually made there, after the European Commission approved their applications.

Lawyers sound Galaxy about Beckham's possible move to AC Milan

Lawyers sound Galaxy about Beckham's possible move to AC MilanRome  - David Beckham's attorneys are discussing with Los Angeles Galaxy the footballer's possible stay at AC Milan past the end of his loan contract on March 8, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said on Wednesday.

Galliani told the Milan website that the California club are the legitimate owners of the 33-year-old English star but that Milan would be happy to take him over for good.

British workers approve deal ending unofficial refinery strike

ItalyLondon - Demonstrators at an oil refinery in Britain voted Thursday to return to work after a week of wildcat strikes over the recruitment of foreign specialists employed by an Italian contractor.

Workers approved a deal reached Wednesday between unions and the energy company Total, which owns the Lindsey refinery in the eastern county of Lincolnshire.

Under the agreement, 102 new jobs will be provided for British workers in addition to posts awarded to Italian and Portuguese construction workers on a building project which will run until the end of May.

Austria-Italy rail tunnel project in doubt: report

Austria-Italy rail tunnel project in doubt: report Vienna - A major Austrian-Italian tunnel project was thrown into doubt Friday, after an Austrian finance minister was quoted in local media saying his country would not commit funds until Italy and Germany pledged their financing.

The rail tunnel beneath the Brenner mountain pass on the Austrian-Italian border is planned to improve the connection on the important route between Italy and Germany through the Austrian Alps.

Comatose woman's case sparks Italian constitutional row

Italy MapRome - In a race against time, Italy's government is expected to table in parliament early next week a controversial bill to re-connect a life-support system to a comatose woman at the centre of a right-to-death debate.

The Senate, parliament's upper-house, is scheduled to begin debating the bill next Tuesday, Senate speaker, Renato Schifani said Saturday.

By then, medical experts say, Eluana Englaro, will have started to manifest muscle spasms and other serious symptoms related to the suspension, which began Friday, of nutrients and water previously supplied to her body through tubes.

Italian holocaust-denying priest is expelled

Roman CatholicRome - An ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic group has expelled an Italian priest who recently said he believed gas-chambers at Nazi death camps were only used to "disinfect" inmates and cast doubt on the veracity of the Holocaust.

The Italian branch of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) said Father Floriano Abrahamowicz was expelled due to "serious disciplinary reasons," the ANSA news agency reported citing a SSPX statement issued Friday.

Leaders Inter Milan enjoy comfortable win at Lecce

Leaders Inter Milan enjoy comfortable win at Lecce Rome  - Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Portugal veteran Luis Figo and Serbian midfielder Dejan Stankovic all found the net Sunday as Serie A leaders Inter Milan crushed Lecce 3-0.

Lecce's defence lent the towering Ibra a hand on 12 minutes by botching their offside trap and allowing him to score his 14th goal of the season, firing home a deadly right-footer off a feed from Esteban Cambiasso.

Figo, 36, secured the win in the second half, heading home a cross from Davide Santon, a young defender who is just half his age, while Stankovic made it 3-0, also with a header.

ROUNDUP: AC Milan draw with Reggina, lose ground from Inter Milan

AC Milan draw with Reggina, lose ground from Inter Milan Rome  - A spot kick from Kaka late Saturday levelled a goal from former AC Milan forward Davide Di Gennaro as the Devils were held to a 1-1 home draw against Serie A tail-enders Reggina.

The result was good news for leaders Inter Milan, who earlier Saturday had Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Portugal veteran Luis Figo and Serbian midfielder Dejan Stankovic on target in a 3-0 crushing of Lecce.

Hindus, Jews urge Italian PM to visit burnt Indian immigrant in Rome hospital

Hindus, Jews urge Italian PM to visit burnt Indian immigrant in Rome hospitalRome, Feb. 8: Hindus and Jews have appealed to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to visit a savagely burnt Indian immigrant in a Rome hospital and send out a strong message against xenophobia.

Prominent Hindu American leader Rajan Zed and Jweish community leader Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich in a statement in Nevada, also asked the Italian Government to provide adequate compensation to Navtej Singh Sidhu who was brutally beaten, insulted and set on fire with petrol while asleep in Nettuno, south of Rome.

Campaign to name babies after Mussolini finds "generous" donors

Rome  - A tiny Italian far-right party has claimed success in raising funds for a money prize it is offering to parents who name their babies after wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, or his wife Rachele.

"We've got 516,000 euros (668,000 dollars), with donations coming in from all over the world," MSI-Fiamma Tricolore official, Vincenzo Mancusi, told Milan-daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Sunday.

Substantial donations from Carinthia - the state in Austria which was until recently governed by the late far-right leader Joerg Haider - France and Spain have been registered, Mancusi said.

Negotiations for Beckham move to AC Milan heat up

David BeckhamRome  - English veteran David Beckham remained firmly in the news Sunday after playing another convincing game with AC Milan and openly declaring his desire to play in Italy rather than returning to Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham, 33, has been at the Devils since late December on a loan deal set to expire on March 8, when he is due to rejoin the California club for the start of the US Major League Soccer (MLS).

On Saturday, LA Galaxy rejected AC Milan's bid to sign Beckham on a permanent deal.

Kaka to miss city derby against Inter Milan

Kaka to miss city derby against Inter Milan Rome  - AC Milan star Kaka will miss next weekend's city derby with Inter Milan following a foot injury suffered during a Serie A game against Reggina, the club's website reported Sunday.

The Brazilian star, 26, left the pitch limping in the second half of a game the Devils drew 1-1 late Saturday against the tail enders from Reggio Calabria.

Milan slipped eight points adrift from leaders Inter, who crushed Lecce 3-0 in a weekend opener earlier Saturday. dpa

Comatose woman's fate divides Italy

Rome - An ambulance, lights flashing, stops briefly as several protestors attempt to block its path. Then, under sweeping rain, the vehicle moves forward into the night.

The footage, aired repeatedly on Italian television, marked the journey of Eluana Englaro to an old person's home in the north- eastern city of Udine.

Also screened are photographs - dating from the late 1980s or early 1990s - of a tanned young woman, her smiling face framed by the long dark curls of her hair.

Eluana has spent the last 17 years in a vegetative state following a car accident, and her case is now captivating public attention in Italy.

Upbeat Serie A Brazilians ready for friendly with Italy

Upbeat Serie A Brazilians ready for friendly with Italy London  - Brazil's Italy-based internationals said Monday they were looking forward to meeting the Azzurri in a high-level friendly in London Tuesday.

Inter Milan defender Douglas Maicon, one of the 10 Serie A players summoned by coach Dunga, Monday told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "It never occurred to me to play against the national team of the country where I play.

"I hope it all goes well for Brazil. It will certainly be a good experience."

Italy's lawmakers discuss "living wills" in wake of woman's death

ItalyRome- Following the controversial death of Eluana Englaro, a comatose woman at the centre of a right-to-die debate in Italy, lawmakers said Tuesday they would seek to introduce legislation on so-called "living wills".

Proposals mentioned differ in the extent to which people could use such documents to specify before their death what type of medical treatment they wish to receive.

The documents would be used in the event of a person falling into a permanent vegetative state, like Englaro's, and losing the ability to communicate their wishes.

Italian bank robbed by masked "Berlusconi"

ItalyTurin, Italy - Carnival-time is approaching in Italy, but in a new twist to the custom of wearing disguises, a robber has held up a bank wearing a mask resembling Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, news reports said Wednesday.

The man, together with two accomplices, all armed with toy pistols, broke into a branch of the Unicredit bank in the north-western city of Turin.

Police intervened and arrested two of the robbers, including the false "Berlusconi" and another man who was wearing a mask resembling one of Berlusconi's close aides, Marcello Dell'Utri. The third suspect managed to escape.

Valverde summoned in new Puerto doping probe

Valverde summoned in new Puerto doping probe Rome  - Spanish cycling star Alejandro Valverde has been summoned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in a new doping investigation linking the rider to the Operation Puerto affair.

CONI said on its website Wednesday that Valverde has been summoned to a hearing for Monday.

Italian media reports said DNA tests on blood samples taken from the rider last July match blood samples seized by police from the laboratory of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

ROUNDUP: Valverde summoned in new Puerto doping probe

ROUNDUP: Valverde summoned in new Puerto doping probe Rome  - Spanish cycling star Alejandro Valverde has been summoned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in a new doping investigation linking the rider to the Operation Puerto affair.

CONI said on its website Wednesday that Valverde has been summoned to a hearing for Monday.

Italian media reports said DNA tests on blood samples taken from the rider last July match blood samples seized by police from the laboratory of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

BEL signs agreement with Selex Galileo, Astra Microwave

BEL signs agreement with Selex Galileo, Astra MicrowaveIndian public sector undertaking Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Italian defence company Selex Galileo and Astra Microwave Products, a Hyderabad based company, have signed memorandum of understandings (MoU) for cooperation and sharing their expertise in the fields of electronic warfare and microwave components.

Monica Bellucci bares all in sizzling shower scene for new movie

Monica BellucciLondon, Feb 13 : Italian actress Monica Bellucci sure knows how to titillate her male fans - she has bared all in a sizzling shower scene for the movie L''Uomo Che Ama, which translates to The Man Who Loves.

The film tells the tale of a fortysomething fella who suffers at the hands of his complex relationships, reports the Sun.

Pierfrancesco Favino, who has struck mainstream success alongside Ben Stiller in `Night at the Museum' and Tom Hanks in `Angels & Demons', also stars in the movie.

Bellucci once vowed that as long as people want so see her naked she'll carry on peeling off.

Majdic, Hattestad underline sprint supremacy

Petra MajdicValditrento, Italy - Petra Majdic of Slovenia and Norway's Ola Vigen Hattestad were unbeatable again on Friday as they each posted a fifth season sprint win in the cross-country skiing World Cup.

Majdic won the women's freestyle race in 2 minutes 45.6 seconds from former sprint world champion Pirjo Muranen of Finland and Italy's Magda Genuin.

Majdic closed in on World Cup leader Aino Kaisa Saarinen of Finland, who placed 13th on the day to lead with 1,240 points. Majdic is close behind on 1,190 and holder Virpi Kuitunen has 1,069.

Protectionism and financial regulation to dominate G7 gathering

Italy MapRome - Protectionism and financial regulation were the expected hot topics at a dinner later Friday bringing together economy ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven (G7) most-industrialized nations.

The gathering in Rome comes amid the backdrop of the global economic downturn and is set to mark the first international appearance of new US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Talks were scheduled to resume Saturday and conclude with a joint statement issued by delegates in the afternoon.

Thousands of workers protest in Italy

Thousands of workers protest in ItalyRome  - Demonstrations and strikes organized by Italy's largest labour union confederation on Friday attracted tens of thousands of workers and jobless people protesting the conservative government's handling of the economic crisis.

Three separate marches staged in Rome snarled traffic in the capital city's centre, where security measures for a meeting of representatives of the Group of Seven industrialized nations had already restricted mobility.

Some 700,000 people took part, organizers said.

Kowalczyk dominates last World Cup before worlds

Justyna KowalczykValditrento, Italy - Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland on Saturday won the last women's cross-country World Cup race before the world championships.

Kowalczyk won the 10-kilometres classic style race in 29 minutes 37.4 seconds, her second straight win in the discipline, third overall in the season and fifth in her career.

Marianna Longa of Italy trailed by 12.4 seconds in second place and Slovenian sprint queen Petra Majdic was third, 30.3 seconds off the pace.

Aino Kaisa Saarinen of Finland came seventh to retain the World Cup lead with 1,276 points from Majdic (1,250) and Kowalczyk (1,167).

Troubled Torino draws against Lazio

Troubled Torino draws against LazioRome - Struggling Serie A side Torino took home one point from Lazio Saturday, holding the Rome side to a 1-1 draw after taking a first-half lead.

Ignazio Abate, an international defender with Italy's youth team, livened up a dull first half at 36 minutes, drilling a smashing drive into the lower-left corner after seizing a short clearance from Ousmane Dabo.

The Rome hosts saw a first chance go begging at 44 minutes as defender Sebastiano Siviglia had his close-range shot blocked by goalkeeper Matteo Sereni with the tip of his boot.

ROUNDUP: Napoli and Bologna play out intense draw

ROUNDUP: Napoli and Bologna play out intense draw Rome  - Serie A top striker Marco Di Vaio levelled the score for Bologna late Saturday as the struggling guests held Napoli to a 1-1 draw.

The 32-year-old forward scored his 16th goal this season after Christian Maggio was on target for Napoli's short-lived lead in the first half.

The Naples side were the first to threaten with a close-range overhead volley from Ezequiel Lavezzi that goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli managed to block.

Juventus held to draw by minnows Sampdoria

JuventusRome  - Juventus' Brazilian Amauri levelled the opener from Sampdoria's Giampaolo Pazzini for a 1-1 draw that pushed Juve to within six points of leaders Inter Milan, who play a late city derby with AC Milan.

Ten-man Genoa drew 3-3 against Fiorentina, who rallied from three goals down and retained the fourth available Champions League berth, which became harder to reach for Roma after a harsh 3-0 beating away to in-form Atalanta.

Beckham recovers for UEFA Cup, Kaka still recovering

UEFA CupRome  - David Beckham appears to have promptly recovered from a muscular injury suffered at the weekend and AC Milan included him in the lineup for a first-leg UEFA Cup game set for Wednesday at Werder Bremen.

The 33-year-old English midfielder left the pitch limping during the city derby that the Devils lost 2-1 to Inter Milan late Sunday.

Beckham in late December joined Milan from Los Angeles Galaxy on a loan deal that will end on March 8. Coach Carlo Ancelotti has made him a mainstay in Milan's midfield, which convinced England coach Fabio Capello to call him up for an international friendly last week.

Maddalena Archipelago: A touch of Norway in the Mediterranean

La Maddalena, Italy  - With its jagged cliffs and fjord-like coves, Italy's Maddalena Archipelago, in the Gallura region off the north-east coast of Sardinia, is like a Mediterranean version of Norway.

Designated a national park 15 years ago, the scattered seven main islands and numerous islets are alive with palm trees, small juniper and stone pine forests and gigantic oleander bushes. They also have wonderful beaches rimmed with bizarre rock formations.

Maddalena is the largest island and the only one inhabited year-round. At the moment, it is busy preparing to host the G8 summit of the leading industrialized nations in July. Ferries arrive at La Maddalena, the island's principal town, every half-hour from Palau, on Sardinia.

Berlusconi stuns Italy's left in Sardinia vote

Silvio BerlusconiCagliari, Sardinia - In a surprise result Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives triumphed over Sardinia's centre-left governor and Tiscali internet company-founder, Renato Soru, in the island's regional elections.

With most of the ballots counted, Soru garnered 43 per cent compared to the centre-right candidate Ugo Cappellacci's 52 per cent.

In the weeks ahead of Sunday and Monday's voting, Berlusconi frequently appeared at rallies across Sardinia in a show of solidarity with the relatively unknown Cappellacci.

AC Milan press for Beckham ownership

David BeckhamRome - AC Milan are continuing negotiations to obtain the full ownership of English veteran David Beckham, who joined the Devils in late December on a loan deal from Los Angeles Galaxy.

Italian media Tuesday quoted Milan vice president Adriano Galliani as saying that "Friday could be the decisive day."

The 33-year-old England midfielder is due back to the US club on March 8, but the perfect way he has fitted in at Milan has convinced both him and the Serie A club to convert the loan into a transfer deal.

Nesta undergoes operation on his back

Alessandro NestaRome - AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta has successfully undergone surgery on his lower back in a Milanese clinic, ANSA reported Tuesday.

The 32-year-old is to observe two weeks of rest before beginning rehabilitation, doctors said.

Nesta, a former international, has suffered from pain in his lower back since last summer and has yet to play a game this season. (dpa)

Maserati unveils sports GTS limo - drop head in pipeline

Modena, Italy  - Italian sports car maker Maserati has expanded its range with an upgraded version of the Quattroporte and has hinted at a new drop head model for the autumn.

The four-door limousine is already no slouch and thanks to an extra 10 brake horsepower from its 4.7-litre engine, the makers in Modena promise enhanced performance.

Revised software for the six-speed automatic gearbox enables the V8 unit to rev happily above 6,000 rpm, freeing up more power for acceleration and top speed.

AC Milan to vie with big guns for Eto'o

AC MilanRome - AC Milan are set to be among the big clubs keen on signing Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroon star striker who appears set on leaving Barcelona at the end of the season.

La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote Wednesday that the footballer's agent, Josep Maria Mesalles, last week met Milan officials to resume contacts that had taken place already a year ago.

Eto'o has bickered frequently with coach Pep Guardiola, leaving little room for him to renew a contract that expires in 2010 and likely setting the stage for a departure in the summer.

Italy's centre-left opposition in chaos

Italian Prime Minister Silvio BerlusconiRome  - Lawyer David Mills is sentenced to prison for accepting a bribe offered by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, triggering a political crisis. Right?


Instead, Tuesday's court ruling passed almost unnoticed compared to the storm that has engulfed Italy's main centre-left opposition Democratic party.

Tunisian immigrants riot in Italian detention centre

ItalyLampedusa, Italy - Around 100 Tunisians protesting expulsion orders served against them by Italian authorities, clashed Wednesday with police and started fires at an immigrant detention centre on the island of Lampedusa.

Several people were injured in the disturbances, with some receiving medical treatment after inhaling fumes from the fires, the ANSA news agency reported.

Relative calm had returned by mid-afternoon, police said.

Valverde still Rome-bound after judge voids Italian case

Valverde still Rome-bound after judge voids Italian caseMadrid/Rome  - A Madrid judge ruled Wednesday that Italian anti-doping proceedings against Alejandro Valverde are "null and void," but the Spanish cyclist said that he would appear anyway in an effort to clear his name.

Madrid Judge Antonio Serrano ruled that proceedings initiated against Valverde by Italy's National Olympic Committee (CONI) made unlawful use of blood samples seized from alleged doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, in an investigation against the winner of the UCI ProTour championships in 2006 and 2008.

Ajax fans damage car of Florence resident

UEFA CupRome - Seven drunken fans of Ajax have been arrested in Florence for damaging the car of a resident in the run-up to a UEFA Cup game against Fiorentina on Thursday, ANSA news agency reported.

Police said a group of about 15 Dutch fans late Wednesday surrounded the car as the owner was parking it in the centre of the city and started kicking it.

The fans ran away when a police patrol arrived, but the officers managed to block seven of them, whose age ranges from 19 to 25.

They face a fine for drunkenness and will be banned from attending the game, it was reported. (dpa)

Italian police bust African drugs ring

Ryanair plane overruns runway during Rome emergency landing Rome- Police in southern Italy have arrested 29 Africans suspected of running a cocaine and heroin ring, officials said Thursday.

Two Italian nationals were also apprehended in overnight raids in the town of Castel Volturno near Naples, local carabinieri commander Carmelo Burgio told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

Italy, Spain, Greece head EU offenders list as Poland catches up

European-UnionBrussels - Italy, Spain and Greece are the worst countries in the European Union for breaking the bloc's laws on creating a single market, with Poland catching up fast, a study published by the European Commission in Brussels on Thursday showed.

Italy is currently facing legal action - known as "infringement proceedings" - from the commission in no fewer than 112 cases, the highest figure in the bloc, the EU executive's report said. Spain was second with 103 cases.

Greece came in third, with 91 cases, closely followed by Germany, with 90.

Berlusconi and Brown warn against protectionism at Rome talks

Gordon Brown, Silvio BerlusconiRome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, reiterated Thursday their commitment to free trade and said the current economic crisis must not "pull back" the process of globalization.

"Protectionist measures reduce growth throughout the world, they deprive us of the benefits of global trade and confine to poverty millions of people," the two said in a joint statement.

The statement was posted on the Italian government's website ahead of talks between Berlusconi and Brown in Rome on Thursday.

After France and Spain, Italian car plan raises EU concerns

European UnionBrussels - The European Union's executive fears that an Italian plan to support the car industry could break EU rules, officials in Brussels said Friday, just days after they raised similar concerns over French and Spanish plans.

"As far as the Italian measures are concerned, we do have some concerns," European Commission competition spokesman Jonathan Todd told journalists in Brussels.

The commission "will be writing to the Italian authorities today, and we will ask them for detailed information on this system, to be provided within five working days," he said.

Italy unveils anti-sex crime and illegal immigration measures

Italian parliament passes bill giving Berlusconi immunity Rome - Italy's conservative government introduced Friday harsher penalties for rape and other sexual abuse cases, the creation of civilian anti-crime patrols and an extension to the period for which illegal immigrants can be kept in detention centres.

The measures contained in a decree approved by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet, come in the wake of several high profile gang-rape cases.

Riesch wins super combined; Paerson clinches discipline title

Maria RieschTarvisio, Italy - Slalom world champion Maria Riesch of Germany won the women's super combined ahead of overall leader Lindsey Vonn of the United States in Tarvisio on Friday.

Sweden's Anja Paerson clinched the discipline title after the three super-combined events of the season by finishing fifth.

Riesch was 0.76 seconds behind double world champion Vonn after the downhill leg but a superb slalom run gave her a combined time of 2 minutes 18.57 seconds and a 0.49-second advantage over the American with

Germany's Stechert upsets favourites for downhill win

Gina StechertTarvisio, Italy - Germany's Gina Stechert claimed a surprise alpine ski World Cup downhill win when she edged overall leader Lindsey Vonn of the United States in Tarvisio on Saturday.

Stechert, 21, clocked 1 minute 59.94 seconds to beat double world champion Vonn by one-hundredth of a second for her maiden World Cup victory.

Sweden's Anja Paerson was third, 0.39 seconds behind Stechert whose best previous finish was fourth in the downhill at Lake Louise, Canada on December 5.

Inter Milan clinch narrow win at lowly Bologna

Inter Milan clinch narrow win at lowly BolognaRome  - Inter Milan stretched their lead in the Italian Serie A Saturday courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Bologna in a slow-paced game that allowed Jose Mourinho's side conserve some energy for this week's Champions League clash with Manchester United.

Argentine Esteban Cambiasso and substitute Mario Balotelli scored in the second half to sink the central-Italy hosts, who managed to briefly equalize but lie now just above the drop zone.

The win moves Inter 12 points clear of Juventus, who have the chance to reduce the gap when they visit Sicily side Palermo in a night game.

ROUNDUP: Low-key Roma edge visiting Siena

RomaRome  - Roma failed to impress their home crowd Saturday, but still managed to clinch a 1-0 win against defence-geared Siena through a goal from Brazilian Rodrigo Taddei.

The Tuscany guests paid dearly for an imperfect clearance on 68 minutes that gave Taddei space and time to curl a classy drive into the top right corner.

With nothing left to lose, Siena abandoned their defensive tactics and brought on veteran forward Nicola Amoruso, who immediately threatened with a header on 70 minutes.

Another header from French substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal gave Roma goalkeeper Alexander Doni a chance to ensure his side's win with two minutes left.

Vonn triumphs in super-g to break US World Cup record

Lindsey VonnTarvisio, Italy  - Lindsey Vonn raced into the record books as the most successful female in US alpine ski history when she charged to victory in the World Cup super-g in Tarvisio on Sunday.

It was a 19th World Cup win for 24-year-old Vonn who had drawn level with the record held by Tamara McKinney earlier this month.

The victory moves Vonn, who won the super-g along with downhill at the world championships in Val d'Isere earlier this month, closer to defending her World Cup title.

OMV retreats from Italian filling-station market

AustriaVienna - Austrian oil and gas group OMV AG announced Monday it would sell all its filling stations in Italy, saying it wanted to focus on Eastern Europe instead.

By retreating from the Italian market, the company is stepping up the restructuring of its filling station network.

By the end of the year, OMV will seek to sell its Italian daughter firm, which owns 96 stations located in the north of the country.

The company said it would focus on markets with higher growth potential like the Danube region, South-Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

Venice mayor defends Coca-Cola sponsorship deal

Coca-Cola CoVenice, Italy - Venice's mayor denied Monday news reports that the famous lagoon-city is about to "sell its soul" in a sponsorship deal with US soft-drink maker Coca-Cola.

Instead, Mayor Massimo Cacciari and other local officials defended the reported 2.1-million-euro-agreement (2.7 million dollars) which includes placing in the city of Venice some 60 vending machines for beverages and snacks.

Italian journalist receives German press freedom award

ItalyBerlin - Germany's DJV journalists' union is awarding Italian author Marco Travaglio its press freedom prize, DJV Chief Michael Konken announced Tuesday.

Konken described Travaglio as a "brave and critical colleague, who had engaged himself against all opposition for press freedom in Italy."

Travaglio, he said, continues to publicly rebuff the attempts of Italian politicians - led by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi - to influence the media and prevent critical news coverage.

Ryanair introduces new southern summer destinations from Frankfurt

Ryanair LogoBerlin - Irish budget airline Ryanair is to include four new European destinations, including Rimini in Italy, in its summer timetable from Germany's Frankfurt Hahn airport.

This increases to 50 the number of routes from Frankfurt Hahn, the airline announced Tuesday.

Ryanair had promised to increase its operations at the airport, situated approximately 120 kilometres from the city of Frankfurt, after the airport operator cancelled a proposed three-euro departure tax in January.

Report: Stepney still not in the clear as others pay fine

Nigel StepneyMilan, Italy  - Former Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney is still facing action over the spying scandal that rocked Formula One two years ago, an Italian newspaper reported Tuesday.

Gazzetta dello Sport said that prosecutor Guiseppe Tibis said he is hoping to wrap up by March a probe against Stepney.

Earlier, Italian authorities ended legal action against McLaren's former chief designer Mike Coughlan and three of the British Formula One team's current technicians, after ordering them to pay fines related to a spying case involving rival team Ferrari.

Italy returns 2,200 smuggled works of art to Bulgaria

Italy returns 2,200 smuggled works of art to Bulgaria Sofia - Italy has returned Tuesday 2,200 works of art to Bulgaria, which were smuggled from the country after the fall of the Communist regime.

The prehistoric and antique works were turned over to the Historical Museum in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Among them were Thracian and Roman bronze and silver figures, jars and coins. The ancient pieces were confiscated from two Bulgarian families in Italy.

Bulgaria's Communist party voluntarily gave up power in 1990 after demonstrations calling for political reforms. (dpa)

Italian Zero electric vehicle to hit the road this year

Rome  - The Italian Tazzari group is planning a production version of the Tazzari Zero electric vehicle for all major European markets by the end of 2009, the company has announced.

Customers will find a car fitted with a 15kW asynchronous centrally mounted engine, driving the rear wheels with maximum torque of 150 Nm. The lightweight construction gives it a weight of only 542 kilogrammes, enabling acceleration from zero to 50 kilometres an hour in five seconds.

One full six-hour charge of the Li-ion Fe battery unit gives it a range of up to 140 kilometres. The top speed is listed at 90 km/h.

Thai police identify decapitated foreigner as Italian

Thai police identify decapitated foreigner as Italian Bangkok  - Thai police on Wednesday identified a foreigner whose head was found at the weekend hanging by a rope off a Bangkok bridge as an Italian tourist who committed suicide after being evicted from his guesthouse for not paying the rent.

General Jongrak Chuthanont, deputy police commissioner, identified the decapitated man as Maurizio Tosadori, 54, an architect from Verona, Italy.

Birds die as animal rights activists claim torching of zoo in Italy

ItalyTurin, Italy - Dozens of birds were killed Wednesday at a private zoo in Italy in an arson attack claimed by radical animal rights activists, news reports said.

Several bottles filled with petrol were used to start the fire which killed some 40 hawks, buzzards and owls in an aviary at the Zoom Zoo near the northern city of Turin.

"This is for the imprisoned animals - Animal Liberation Front" was found spray-painted in red near the scene of the early morning attack.

Firefighters prevented flames from spreading to a warden's shed and other buildings, one of them housing several tigers, the reports said.

Balbo quits minutes into his first coaching session with new club

BalboRome  - Former Argentine striker Abel Balbo Wednesday walked out on Treviso just minutes after starting his first coaching session with the Serie B minnows, Italian media reported.

The club from north-eastern Italy lie last in the league and hired Balbo, 42, on Tuesday to replace Luca Gotti on Tuesday. The players however refused to train on Tuesday saying that they wouldn't train due to the absence of the team doctor.

The team showed up Wednesday, but Balbo left the pitch shortly after the start of the training session.

Italy to build the world's largest suspension bridge

ItalyLondon, Feb. 26 : Italy has announced that it will build the world's largest suspension bridge between the mainland and Sicily.

Critics say the six billion euros (5.4 billion pound) two-and-a-half mile long bridge across the Strait of Messina is too costly and have also questioned the wisdom of building it in a region that is prone to earthquakes.

According to The Telegraph, some engineers have warned that the area's huge pylons would be vulnerable to high winds.

Nedved set for farewell at season's end

Pavel NedvedRome - Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved is set to bid farewell to football in late May, regardless of his side's achievements this season.

The Czech veteran made his announcement late Wednesday after the Champions League game that the Turin side lost 1-0 away to Chelsea.

"I'm still enjoying playing, but considering my physical and mental condition I understand that the time has come to make way for younger players - they deserve to play," the UEFA web site quoted Nedved as saying.

Ang Lee to head jury at 2009 Venice Film Festival

Ang Lee to head jury at 2009 Venice Film FestivalVenice, Italy - Taiwanese-born Academy Award winning director, Ang Lee, will head the jury at this year's edition of the Venice Film Festival, organizers announced Friday.

The world's oldest film competition, the festival this year marks its 66th edition and runs in the lagoon city from September 2 to September 12.

Italian government moves to curb transport strikes

Italian government moves to curb transport strikesRome - Italy's conservative government on Friday approved a bill to restrict strikes marring the country's transport sector, a move criticized by the country's main labour union confederation.

According to the bill, only unions representing at least half the workforce will be able to directly call transport strikes.

In cases where no single union has the support of at least 50 per cent of the workers, then a vote would be required to approve a

strike with at least 30 per cent in favour of stoppage.

Leonardo "self portrait" discovered by Italian TV presenter

Rome - A Italian state-television presenter says he has discovered in one of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks a tiny sketch that could be a self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance master.

The presenter, Piero Angela, is set to unveil his find on the RAI television science program Ulisse scheduled for broadcast late on Saturday.

Angela writing on RAI's internet site, said initially only a nose was visible from under heavy scribbling on a page of the notebook, which contains a study by Leonardo on the flight of birds.

But RAI's graphics experts had managed to isolate the image, revealing a drawing of a young man, with long hair and a slight beard.

Zarate brace helps Lazio beat Bologna

Zarate brace helps Lazio beat BolognaRome  - Mauro Zarate scored a brace for Lazio Saturday as the Rome side beat visiting Bologna 2-0 in a Serie A weekend opener.

The young Argentine stunned Francesco Antonioli on 36 minutes curling a free kick above the wall into the corner by the closest post.

Throughout the first half, Pasquale Foggia was a major worry for Bologna down the left flank as the Rome hosts dominated the game.

Albanian mother and two children killed in blast in Italy

Italy Florence, Italy  - Rescuers near Florence on Sunday pulled the bodies of an Albanian woman and her two teenage children from a building destroyed in an explosion believed to have been caused by a gas leak, news reports said.

At least one man was rescued from the debris of the building situated in the Tuscan town of Barberino del Mugello.

Information on the man's condition was not immediately available. dpa

Italy to transfer control of an Orthodox church to Russia

Orthodox churchBari, Italy  - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was scheduled later Sunday to hand his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, the key of an Orthodox church in the southern Italian city of Bari.

A message of goodwill by Pope Benedict XVI was also set to be read at the ceremony by a Vatican envoy, Cardinal Salvatore Di Giorgio.

The acting head of the External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchy, Bishop Mark of Yegorievsk, was set to deliver a speech on behalf of the Russian Orthodx Church.

UN: World fisheries need to prepare for climate change

UN: World fisheries need to prepare for climate changeRome - Global demand for fish is set to increase, but the industry and national authorities need to bolster efforts dealing with the impact of climate change, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Monday in a report.

"Climate change is already modifying the distribution of both marine and freshwater species," the Rome-based FAO said in its State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

Beckham to stay at AC Milan until end of season

David BeckhamRome  - AC Milan are close to obtaining the extension of David Beckham's loan from Los Angeles Galaxy, who will have him back at the end of the Serie A season, Italian media reported Monday.

The 33-year-old English veteran was due back to the US club on March 9 at the end of an 11-week loan.

His perfect fitting into the Devils' schemes, however, convinced Milan to ask Galaxy for an extension of the loan that the California club appear to have accepted.

taly to join race for Euro 2016

euro-cup footballRome - Italy has confirmed its interest in making a bid to host football's European Championships in 2016.

The Italian federation FIGC will officially declare its interest to continental body UEFA by the deadline next Monday.

FIGC president Giancarlo Abete was quoted by Italian media on Tuesday as saying there had been informal contacts with the Italian government, which has given the thumbs up for a bid.

Italy failed in its bid to host Euro 2012 when Poland and Ukraine were chosen as joint hosts.

Vatican's Darwin conference opens in Rome

Italy-FlagRome - A Vatican-sponsored academic conference marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species opened in Rome on Tuesday.

The five-day event includes seminars in which scientists, philosophers and theologians are set to discuss Darwin's theory of evolution in relation to the belief in divine creation.

Amauri close to being eligible to play for the Azzurri

italy_footballRome - Juventus striker Amauri edged closer to being able to play for the Azzurri after his wife Tuesday became an Italian citizen, giving her husband the possibility to apply for an Italian passport.

Gazzetta. it reported that the Brazilian footballer's wife, Cynthia Cosini Valaderes, swore on the Italian constitution in a ceremony in Palermo, the Sicily town where Amauri played since 2006 before transferring to Juve last summer.

She obtained the citizenship due to her Italian ancestors.

Amauri, 28, has expressed an interest in playing for the world champions coached by Marcello Lippi.

Troubled Ancelotti gets ultimatum from AC Milan

AC-Milan-LogoRome - AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani Tuesday sent a clear message to coach Carlo Ancelotti, saying he is only certain to keep his job if the Devils retain their current third place in the Italian Serie A, Italian media reported.

Galliani said that his message should already be clear to everyone and wondered if he "has lost his ability to communicate or others have forgotten how to listen."

Finishing third in the Serie A secures a berth in next season's Champions League without having to play a preliminary round, which is necessary for the fourth-placed club.

Kaladze's season over after knee surgery

Kaladze's season over after knee surgeryRome  - AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze is out for the remainder of the Serie A season after undergoing knee surgery in Belgium.

The club's web site Tuesday wrote that the 31-year-old Georgian was successfully operated on his right knee in Antwerp by doctor Marc Martens. His recovery is estimated in about five months.

Kaladze is at Milan since 2001. He joins an injured list already including long-time absentees Alessandro Nesta and Gennaro Gattuso, two mainstays in defence and midfield, respectively, who are unlikely to be available before the season ends in late May. (dpa)

Fingerprinting to catch cheating lawmakers in Italy

Fingerprinting to catch cheating lawmakers in Italy Rome - An Italian house of parliament tested Wednesday a new voting system with finger-print recognition to prevent cheating lawmakers from expressing more than an individual vote.

The so-called "pianists" who on parliament's benches press more than their allotted voting button, often on behalf of absent colleagues, have long been a notorious feature in Italian politics.

Mourinho likely to face suspension after verbal attacks

Mourinho likely to face suspension after verbal attacks Rome - Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho was expected to receive a disciplinary sanction Wednesday for his verbal attacks against Roma, Juventus and the media.

Mourinho heated up a dispute that began late Sunday after a controversial spot kick helped the Serie A leaders salvage a 3-3 home draw with Roma.

Kaka still on AC Milan's long injured list

Kaka still on AC Milan's long injured list Rome  - AC Milan star Kaka remains sidelined as his foot injury has not improved, the La Gazzetta dello Sport paper reported on Thursday.

Kaka, 26, injured his foot on February 7 in Milan's 1-1 home draw in the league with lowly Reggina.

"What can I say? I'll say something when I'm back (in Milan)," the Brazilian was quoted as saying after Milan beat Al Sadd 2-1 in a friendly.

The 2007 Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player is certain to miss the regional derby against Atalanta this weekend and remains on the Devils' long injured list.

Film on ex-terrorist's memoir sparks row in Italy

Film on ex-terrorist's memoir sparks row in Italy Milan - Italian state sponsorship for a film based on a memoir by a former leftist terrorist has sparked outrage among relatives of victims of the wave of urban guerrilla attacks that bloodied the country in the 1970s and '80s.

On Thursday a top anti-terrorism prosecutor, Armando Spataro, also criticized the 1.5 million euro (1.8 million dollars) subsidy for the film, the Corriere della Sera daily said.

The film is budgeted for 6.4 million dollars according to trade publication Variety.

Italy revives plans to build world's largest suspension bridge

Silvio BerlusconiRome - Long a pet project of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian government revived Friday a plan to build the world's largest suspension bridge linking Sicily to Italy's mainland.

The cabinet meeting in Rome approved a 17.8-billion-euro (22.4 billion dollar) public works programme including new rail links, motorways and tunnels.

Some 1.3 billion euros have been earmarked for the bridge project which is estimated to be worth a total of 6.1 billion euros.

Israeli envoy: Pope won't visit Holocaust museum in Israel

Pope Benedict XVIRome - Pope Benedict XVI, during his expected visit to the Holy Land in May, is not scheduled to enter an Israeli Holocaust museum which contains a controversial caption on wartime pope Pius XII, Israel's Vatican envoy said Friday.

Ambassador Mordechay Lewy referred to the pontiff's trip during a conference in Rome on Jerusalem's holy sites, the ANSA news agency reported.

The Vatican has yet to confirm the pontiff's visit to the Holy Land which is likely to include visits to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

ROUNDUP: Beckham close to signing deal to end season at AC Milan

Beckham close to signing deal to end season at AC Milan Rome - AC Milan refused to confirm reports Friday that a deal has been agreed with Los Angeles Galaxy to extend the loan contract of England football star David Beckham.

"We are continuing the negotiation and we are heading in the right direction, but that Beckham remains at Milan is not yet official," the ANSA news agency quoted club vice president Adriano Galliani as saying.

Archaeologists find female "vampire" skeleton in Venice

Archaeologists find female "vampire" skeleton in Venice Venice, Italy  - The skeleton of woman who was probably believed to have been a vampire when she died in the Middle Ages has been uncovered in Venice, news agency reported Friday.

Archaeologists made the find on Lazzaretto Nuovo, one of the hundreds of islands that make up the lagoon city, the ANSA news agency reported.

A brick found lodged in the skeleton's mouth suggests the woman's body was "staked", University of Florence expert Matteo Borrini said.

De Rossi sees red as Roma held by Udinese

De Rossi sees red as Roma held by Udinese Rome  - Roma had captain Daniele De Rossi sent off as they were held to a 1-1 home draw by visiting Udinese in the Serie A Saturday to dent their pursuit of a Champions League berth.

Roma are now level with Genoa and one point behind Fiorentina, in the fourth Champions League qualifying place, who could improve their tally Sunday when Palermo are the visitors.

Brazilian defender Felipe put Udinese ahead in the second half before an equalizer from substitute Mirko Vucinic.

ROUNDUP: Inter Milan spoil Genoa's unbeaten home record

Inter Milan spoil Genoa's unbeaten home record Rome - Sweden's ace Zlatan Ibrahimovic resumed his scoring habits Saturday, opening the scoring in a 2-0 beating of Genoa that Mario Balotelli sealed in the second half.

The Serie A leaders beefed up their lead on Juventus and beat Genoa on home turf for the first time this season. The game was also Genoa's first without a goal scored before their home crowd.

As both sides took off at a hammering pace, the Swede was deadly in the second minute, displaying all his class to control a long feed by Dejan Stankovic and aim a perfect lob past Rubens Rubinho.

2ND ROUNDUP: Chiellini helps Juventus stay in wake of Inter Milan

2ND ROUNDUP: Chiellini helps Juventus stay in wake of Inter MilanRome - Juventus late Saturday kept the pace of Serie A leaders Inter Milan edging Torino 1-0 through a late goal from international defender Giorgio Chiellini.

The win in the high-voltage city derby pushed Juve on to 56 points from 27 games, with reigning champions Inter leading on 63 after beating Genoa 2-0 earlier Saturday.

Swiss gigolo on trial for allegedly duping German car heiress

Munich  - A smooth-talking Swiss gigolo who allegedly preyed on wealthy women goes on trial on Monday charged with extorting millions of dollars.

Amongst the alleged victims is BMW car heiress Susanne Klatten, 46. The publicity-shy mother-of-three is reputedly Germany's richest woman, with a large stake in luxury carmaker as well as a pharmaceuticals company.

Helg Sgarbi, 44, is accused of trying to extort 14 million euros (17.5 million dollars) from Klatten after he threatened to publicise secret video recordings of them having sex.

It is unclear whether Klatten and three other women Sgarbi is alleged to have seduced and defrauded will testify against him.

Sissoko leads pack of limping Serie A players

Sissoko leads pack of limping Serie A playersRome - Juventus's Mohamed Sissoko is possibly the most illustrious victim in a Serie A weekend that saw several big teams lose players to serious injuries.

Juve coach Claudio Ranieri only fielded the key midfielder late in the game against Torino on Saturday to spare him for Tuesday's Champions League tie with Chelsea.

But the last 10 minutes of the city derby were fatal for the Mali footballer who suffered a fractured left foot - a setback for Juve who remain seven points behind leaders Inter.

Pope urges Romans to be welcoming to immigrants

Pope urges Romans to be welcoming to immigrants Rome - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday visited Rome's city hall and appealed to the Italian capital's citizens to show tolerance and be more welcoming towards foreign immigrants.

Benedict's visit, the first by a pontiff in over a decade, came amid tensions in Rome and neighbouring areas involving Romanian immigrants as well as ethnic Roma living in shanty towns and camps around the city.

ROUNDUP: Sissoko leads pack of limping Serie A players

Sissoko leads pack of limping Serie A playersRome  - Juventus midfielder Mohamed Sissoko is possibly the most high-profile victim in a Serie A weekend that saw several big teams lose players to serious injuries.

Juve coach Claudio Ranieri only fielded Sissoko late in the game against Torino on Saturday to spare him for Tuesday's Champions League tie with Chelsea.

But the last 10 minutes of the city derby were a nightmare for the Mali footballer who suffered a fractured left foot - a setback for Juve who remain seven points behind leaders Inter.

Napoli's Maggio and Gargano ruled out until end of season

Napoli's Maggio and Gargano ruled out until end of season Rome  - Defender Christian Maggio is to undergo surgery to repair a damaged knee ligament and will be sidelined until the end of the Serie A season, the Napoli web site reported Monday.

Maggio, 26, hurt his right knee at the weekend during a game his side lost 2-0 at home against Lazio.

The Naples club said he will be operated on Tuesday in a Rome clinic.

Walter Gargano, a 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder, is also expected to be absent for a long time after suffering a foot fracture while training last week. (dpa)

Lecce sack coach after draw with bottom side Reggina

Lecce sack coach after draw with bottom side RegginaRome  - Serie A strugglers Lecce have fired coach Mario Beretta after a scoreless home draw with bottom side Reggina.

Luigi De Canio is the rumoured substitute of Beretta at the helm of the southern-Italy side.

After 27 games, with 11 remaining, Lecce lie second from last with 23 points in the three-team drop zone. (dpa)

Legrottaglie joins Juve's injured list before clash with Chelsea

Legrottaglie joins Juve's injured list before clash with Chelsea Rome  - Juventus defender Nicola Legrottaglie will be out for the crucial Champions League tie the Turin side play Tuesday at home against English giants Chelsea, Italian media reported.

"Legrottaglie is unavailable. He did not recover from an injury," Juve coach Claudio Ranieri said Monday. "He did (today's) training session, but doesn't feel confident to play."

The 32-year-old international joins Mali midfielder Mohamed Sissoko, 24, who fractured his left foot at the weekend and is to be operated on Tuesday.

Troubled Lecce welcome new coach De Canio

Troubled Lecce welcome new coach De Canio Rome - Serie A strugglers Lecce were to present new coach Luigi Di Canio on Tuesday after dismissing Mario Beretta, Italian media reported.

De Canio, 51, coached several mid-level Serie A teams. He was without a job since a stint at England's second-division side Queens Park Rangers in the 2007-2008 season.

After 27 games, with 11 remaining, Lecce lie second from last with 23 points in the three-team drop zone. (dpa)

Posh delays fourth baby over Becks’ Italy move

David Beckham to train with AC milan to remain in Capello's good booksNew Delhi, Mar 11 : It seems footie ace David Beckham’s move to AC Milan has worked against him where Posh is concerned, as she has refused to have a fourth child while he is living in Italy.

Becks, 33, is very eager to extend his family, but he has reportedly been told by Victoria that it is not a good time, with him playing soccer for AC Milan, while she and their three sons, Brooklyn, 10, Romeo, 6, and Cruz, 4, are living in the US, reports China Daily.

Former Italy coach Donadoni takes over Napoli's bench

Former Italy coach Donadoni takes over Napoli's bench Rome  - Napoli have hired former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni to replace Edy Reja after a dismal run in the Italian Serie A, local media reported on Wednesday.

Napoli signed Donadoni, 45, until 2011. He was due to be presented Wednesday at the team's camp in Castelvolturno.

Reja, 63, was dismissed late Tuesday as Napoli notched only two points in the last nine games after a good start into the season. They are still 11 points above the relegation zone with 11 games left in the season, but had to bury initial hopes for a place in Europe.

More than 300 would-be immigrants land on Italian islet

More than 300 would-be immigrants land on Italian islet Lampedusa, Italy - A large wooden boat carrying 332 would-be immigrants, including 23 women, arrived Wednesday at the Italian islet of Lampedusa, where reception facilities are already stretched, local officials said.

The group, whose nationality was yet to be determined, would bring to over 2,000 the number of migrants on Lampedusa, a spokeswoman for the local mayor said.

Italian cyclist detained in doping raid

Italian cyclist detained in doping raidMilan - Italian cyclist Gianni Da Ros was among 11 people detained in a police doping raid on Wednesday, news reports said.

The reports said that the Liquigas rider was led away by officers from the health police NSA at the training camp of Italy's track cycling team.

The reports said that 11 people were taken into custody and 10 flats searched as part of a drug dealing probe by Milan prosecutor Gianluca Prisco. Doping is a criminal offence in Italy. (dpa)

Lou Gehrig's disease hits another retired footballer

Lou Gehrig's disease hits another retired footballer Rome  - A retired Serie B footballer has said he contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a nervous-system disease with an unusually high incidence among former Italian players.

Italian media reported Thursday that Stefano Turchi, 40, a forward with Ancona between 1990 and 1992 has suffered from ALS since 2005.

Turchi, in an interview with the Ancona-based newspaper Corriere Adriatico, said he considers himself lucky to have been hit by a less aggressive form of the illness that still allows him to talk and walk.

London auction followers to be offered a taste of Versace

London  - Auction-goers with a penchant for celebrity will be able to snap up a momento from the opulently-furnished lakeside villa of late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace at a sale at Sotheby's in London next week.

On offer are some 500 items from the spectacular neo-classical interior of Versace's Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como, ranging from paintings to furniture and silver works with an estimated value of 2 million pounds (2.75 million dollars), Sotheby's said.

The auction comes just weeks after the record-breaking sale in Paris of the private possessions of late French designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Careless error led police to mafia suspect

Careless error led police to mafia suspectAmsterdam/Duisburg, Germany  - Giovanni Strangio had for months lived a modest life in the anonymity of Amsterdam until a careless error put police on his trail.

A German environmental sticker issued for a Peugeot car registered in the name of a 48-year-old contact person in Frankfurt led investigators to the suspected Mafia hit-man.

Late on Thursday evening Strangio, his wife, their young son and another man named Francesco Romeo were taken into custody at an apartment in the Amsterdam suburb of Diemen.

Kidnapped aid workers in Sudan "expected to be released soon"

Kidnapped aid workers in Sudan "expected to be released soon" Rome - Three western hostages who work for the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders have yet to be released but are expected to be freed soon, Italian media reports said Saturday.

The Italian government retracted an announcement, made late Friday by the country's foreign minister in Rome, that the release had already happened.

A spokeswoman in Paris for the French-based Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF,) as the organization is formally known, did not confirm the release.

Genoa move closer to securing European berth

Genoa move closer to securing European berth Rome - Genoa moved up to fourth place in the Italian Serie A Saturday, winning 1-0 away to 10-man Cagliari through a late goal from substitute Ruben Olivera.

After an evenly balanced and fairly slow-paced half hour, Cagliari had a first chance when Uruguayan Diego Lopez headed against the post on 35 minutes.

However, the Sardinia hosts' had their efforts seriously hampered four minutes later as midfielder Andrea Cossu was sent off with a second booking.

ROUNDUP: Juventus rally to reduce gap from leaders Inter Milan

Juventus rally to reduce gap from leaders Inter MilanRome  - Juventus waited until the second half to come from behind Saturday against lowly visitors Bologna and clinch a 4-1 win that pushed them within four points of leaders Inter Milan.

Hasan Salihamidzic levelled Bologna's first-half lead from Massimo Mutarelli before a goal from Sebastian Giovinco and an Alessandro Del Piero brace pushed Juve on
59 points from 28 games.

The Turin hosts missed injured Brazil striker Amauri, while Frenchman David Trezeguet