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Italy OK's security measures

Expands powers to obtain DNA, jail terror suspects

ROME -- The Italian government approved a package of antiterrorism measures yesterday that allows authorities to take DNA samples from suspects and jail those who provide explosives training.

The measures, drawn up after the recent bombings in London, also give authorities the power to detain suspects for up to 24 hours without charges, offer incentives to those who aid authorities in tracking terrorist cells and rapidly expel suspects from Italy.

Until now, suspects could be held up to 12 hours without charges.

Ministers from Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition approved the measures at a Cabinet meeting.

Berlusconi said the Cabinet also approved plans for a bill to create a special prosecutor's office to coordinate investigations.

The package includes heightened security on Italy's transport system, including at ports, railways and subways, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said.

The package also gives authorities the ability to freeze assets and introduces a new charge against those who train people to prepare or use explosives, he said.

Pisanu presented many of the measures to parliament last week after Italy heightened its level of alert following the July 7 bombings in London that killed 56 people, including four attackers.

The right-wing Northern League Party had said the initial package was too soft and pressed for additional measures, including the DNA tests and the special prosecutor's office.

Roberto Calderoli, a Northern League minister, said another proposal from his party to suspend the European Union's open-border agreement was not among the measures approved yesterday.

''On the one hand, we have to safeguard our traditional democratic liberties and the rights of the citizen," said Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, also of the Northern League. ''On the other, we have to take stringent action to combat this scourge that afflicts us."

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Italy had asked the ambassadors of Arab countries to help in efforts to secure the cooperation of Muslim communities in anti-terrorism efforts.

Internet threats have mentioned Italy as a possible target of future attacks -- including one note claiming responsibility for the London bombings.

Officials have said they had not received information about specific attacks being planned. Last week, the head of a parliamentary commission warned of extremist cells in Italy capable of launching an attack.

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