December 7, 2005

Anti-train protesters block Italian roads, railway

TURIN (Reuters) - Protesters blocked roads and railways
near Turin on Wednesday to protest against a planned high-speed
railway line connecting Italy and France they say damages the

Italian media reported there had been overnight clashes
between police and protesters, who say the project in northern
Italy's Alpine Val di Susa area may release harmful deposits of
asbestos in the mountains.

About 30 people, including policemen, were injured on
Tuesday when police evacuated a camp preventing building work
on the line, after a week-long demonstration.

Buildings in Turin's historical center, recently scrubbed
clean for the 2006 Winter Olympics which the city is hosting,
were covered in graffiti saying "Hands off Val di Susa" and "No
to the high-speed train, No to the Olympics."

Val di Susa links Turin to the Olympics mountain sites,
where the games are due to begin on February 10.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said extremist groups were
behind the violence.

"Extreme left-wing groups, from antagonistic and
anarchic-insurrectionist wings are trying to extend the unrest
from Val di Susa to Turin, Rome, Milan, and various other
cities," Berlusconi said in a statement after a meeting with
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu.

"The government is committed to dealing firmly with this
plan, which has nothing to do with the peaceful protest by
inhabitants of the valley."

The protesters blocked roads including a motorway
connecting Turin with France. They later obstructed railway
tracks, a spokesman for Italy's state railway company said.

Thousands of people have marched against the line, which
will require building a tunnel more than 50 km (31 miles) long
under the Alps.

But Italy's mainstream politicians all support the project,
arguing their country will be left out of a crucial train line
stretching from Spain to eastern Europe if it scraps the plan.