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Archive for Friday, April 2, 2004

Italian official says Europe faces too many obstacles in fighting terror

April 2, 2004

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— A shortage of Arabic translators, the deployment of precious manpower to keep track of soccer hooligans and differing legal traditions among Western countries are hampering efforts to fight terrorism, Italy's top terrorism investigator told The Associated Press.

Foreign agencies that bar prosecutors from going public with intelligence reports on suspects at trials pose another hurdle, said Milan prosecutor Stefano Dambruoso.

"There is no doubt that Europeans want to cooperate to fight terrorism," Dambruoso told AP in an interview Wednesday, three weeks before leaving the Milan prosecutor's office to become Italy's legal attache to the U.N. crime-fighting agencies in Vienna. "There is a very high willingness."

But he said the differing traditions, lack of resources and a genuine desire to preserve open societies made the battle more difficult.

The March 11 Madrid train bombings have raised new alarms across Europe, especially in countries such as Italy that have troops in Iraq. The government recently listed five Italian cities -- Rome, Milan, Naples, Bologna and Perugia -- as at risk for terrorist attacks.

In a move to improve cooperation in the wake of the bombings, the European Union appointed its first "anti-terrorism czar" to coordinate policy. But Dambruoso said historic differences in legal systems would always create obstacles.

"Terrorists can still cross borders easier than we can," Dambruoso said.

At month's end, he will move to Vienna to represent the Italian government in legal matters taken up by the U.N. agencies.

Dambruoso was 34 when he transferred to Milan eight years ago, fresh from a stint as a prosecutor in Agrigento, Sicily, where his work helped convict 110 members of the Mafia.

In Milan, he was assigned investigations into Islamic terrorism "because nobody else wanted to do it."

That was before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, when attention suddenly focused on Dambruoso's two-year probe into al-Qaida's penetration of northern Italy and his team's arrest of Tunisians suspected of running Osama bin Laden's operations in Europe.

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