Tense Genoa Makes Final Preparations For G-8 Summit

By Maria Kalafati | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - Italian security forces are finalizing preparations aimed at protecting the leaders of the world's key industrialized nations from threats by terrorists or demonstrators who have vowed to disrupt the G-8 summit in Genoa this weekend.

A package bomb sent to a police station in the Fruttuoso area of the city earlier this week added to crisis atmosphere.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola called the bomb attack, which wounded a policeman, "an extremely serious episode aimed at increasing the tension just before the G-8 meeting."

The Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella of anti-globalization groups spearheading protests at the summit, condemned the bombing and said it hoped the incident "would not create more tensions between the state and opposition groups."

Authorities say they are bracing for as many as 120,000 demonstrators in Genoa, where army, navy and air force units will seal off the entire port in one of Italy's largest peacetime security operations.

The demonstrators are mainly anti-globalization and human right activists as well as anarchists, environmentalists and campaigners for the cancellation of Third World debt.

Police will be equipped with riot gear, armed with live and rubber bullets, teargas, water cannon and batons. Army and navy personnel will also be on call.

The security measures include the positioning of a missile defense system at Genoa's Christopher Columbus Airport.

"The measure is no excessive precaution. It is merely to act as a deterrent against any aerial incursion during the meeting" said armed forces spokesman Colonel Alberto Battaglini of the decision.

Defense Minister Antonio Martino has conceded that Genoa is "not the best place to organize such a meeting, because it is very hard to defend key sites."

As from Wednesday, access to the main security area, the "red zone" is being restricted to residents, journalists and summit delegates. The zone includes the city center, the 13th-Century Ducal Palace, which is the summit venue, and the waterfront, where hotels and cruise ships hosting 1,500 delegates and 5,000 journalists will be located.

A secondary security area, the "yellow zone," will act as a buffer. Access is less restricted, demonstrations will be allowed, but police will be able to seal off the area quickly if necessary.

Coast guard divers will search underwater caves while satellite data will help intercept any unwelcome vessels. Naval boats will patrol access to the port while fighter jets will monitor the skies.

The airport, the two main rail stations, an elevated railway and all motorways into the city will be shut.

Hospitals in the city and neighboring towns have been put on alert, and prisoners have been relocated to jails elsewhere to empty cells which may be needed should large-scale arrests occur.

The Genoa Social Forum has posted warnings that protestors should not carry "any object that could be considered as a weapon." But at least one Italian anarchist group has already said it intends to incite violent demonstrations.

A British organization, Globalize Resistance, has hired a special train to transport hundreds of activists to the city.

"There were 25,000 demonstrators in Gothenburg but only 600 were involved in trouble," a Genoa official said to reporters.

Protests at a European Union summit in Sweden last month turned violent. In what has become almost routine at major international gatherings since a World Trade Organization summit in Seattle in December 1999, a hard core group of activists among the larger body of demonstrators sparked trouble.

President Bush will be among the leaders to attend the Genoa meeting, along with the leaders of Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Canada.