DECEMBER 4 2008 20:02h

Italy Hopes Island G8 Will Be Violence-Free

Silvio Berlusconi




Italy holds the presidency of the G8 in 2009.

Italy is hosting next year's Group of Eight summit on an island off Sardinia, hoping there will not be any of the violence that dogged the last gathering of the world's richest nations on its soil seven years ago.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said memories of the fatal shooting of a demonstrator and bloody clashes at the Genoa G8 summit in 2001 were in everyone's mind as the government prepares to organise security at next year's meeting -- to be held on July 8-10 on the Maddalena archipelago.

Italy holds the presidency of the G8 in 2009.

"Given the traumatic experience of Genoa ... for us the problem of security is a real one," Berlusconi -- who was also in charge of Italy's government during the Genoa summit -- told a press conference.

"The previous government picked Maddalena thinking, I believe, that this location would be ideal to avoid a repeat of what happened in Genoa," he said.

"I am fairly certain that (the measures taken) will bring total security to the site and the island itself," he added, saying he would hold a meeting on security at the summit next week.

Three days of clashes at the Genoa summit were among the most violent at any meeting of the club of rich nations, which are regularly dogged by protests by anti-globalisation groups and leftist demonstrators.

In 2001 one protester was killed by a policeman and dozens of others were injured during police charges or hurt after being detained.

The Maddalena archipelago, which is made up of seven islands at the northern end of Sardinia, is a top tourist destination known for its rocky coastline and pristine waters.

The head of Italy's civil protection authority said he expected some 25,000 people for the summit, including 4,500 delegates, 4,500 journalists and an unspecified number of security forces. It is already expected to be a logistical challenge with participants and the media travelling back and forth to the main venue from Sardinia by boat and helicopter. The summit next year will be extended from its second day to the leaders of India, China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt, Berlusconi said.