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U.S. subs to leave Sardinia

(ANSA) - Cagliari, May 25 - American nuclear submarines are to leave Sardinia, US Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli confirmed Thursday after talks with Sardinia Governor Renato Soru .


Spogli said the United States are ready to discuss with new Italian Defence Minister Arturo Parisi a timeframe for dismantling the Santo Stefano base on the small island of La Maddalena just off the northernmost tip of the island .

"We’ve been on La Maddalena for more than 30 years and it’s been a very positive experience," Spogli told reporters .

"The international situation has changed, of course, and now it’s time we made the move we talked about last year" .

The important thing is that we’ll be leaving La Maddalena in the same positive and friendly manner in which we arrived" .

Spogli, who also talked to former dotcom magnate Soru about the possible use of US technology and funding to set up new Sardinian businesses, will visit the Santo Stefano base on Friday. Soru is one of many officials who have campaigned for the subs to go because of environmental fears .

When their departure was announced by then defence minister Antonio Martino last year, Soru called it "fantastic news" .

Soru scored a landslide election win last year on the slogan, "We are friends of the Americans but in the future we’d like to see them here only as tourists" .

The island’s two separatist groups, Indipende’ntzia Repu’brica de Sardigna (Irs) and Sardigna Natzione Indipendentzia, who have staged sit-ins and other protests at the base, hailed the news as "a victory for all the Sardinian people" .

La Maddalena is part of a wildlife and sea reserve along with the nearby island of Caprera - the retirement hideaway of famed Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi .

Irs, along with local officials, stepped up its campaign against the base in January 2004 when a French research institute found that the waters near the base were four times more radioactive than would usually be expected .

Opposition also swelled after an accident in October 2003 in which a sub raked the bottom of the sea near the base - an incident for which the boat’s commander was dismissed .

Then, a petition was launched last summer after rumours of plans to enlarge the base .

In his announcement, Martino did not say when the subs would leave or where they would go .

He said they were leaving as part of a general redeployment of US forces in Europe .

Martino thanked the US for the security it had provided for more than 30 years and the great contribution it had made to the local economy .

The mayor of the nearest town to the base said "we’ve been living with this danger for 33 years. Now we want to find out when and how the subs are going to go" .

"We have shared many things with the Americans, we’ve been linked by a great friendship that we want to keep up, but now our region has to go ahead on its own two feet, in complete autonomy" .

Teresa Carboni

 

Data pubblicazione: 25/05/2006