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Italian officials refuse to confirm surveillance figures

ROME -- Fearing possible terrorism at the Turin Olympics,
Italian authorities are conducting surveillance on "numerous''
people through telephone wiretaps and other intelligence
operations, an Italian security official said Tuesday.

Luigi Rinella, the Italian police's liaison with the U.S.
government, said those under surveillance included suspected
Islamic militants, but he stressed that anti-globalization
protesters and anarchists could also make trouble during the Feb.
10-26 Games.

"Clearly at this moment, the sensibility is to groups that we
call Islamic terrorist that are connected to al-Qaida,'' he told
The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington.

Rinella said the surveillance involved telephone wiretaps and
other forms of interceptions. But he noted that such activities
were also used in drug-trafficking intelligence-gathering
operations, and not just anti-terrorism operations.

He denied a statement attributed to him in a report by USA Today
that at least 700 people were being monitored.

"I confirm that we monitor -- that each nation investigates on
numerous targets of interest -- numerous,'' he said. "What I can't
confirm is the number because we don't have numbers to give.''

USA Today National Editor David Lindsey said the paper stands by
its report of 700 monitored. He said his reporter and Rinella had
two or three conversations, "and that's the number he [Rinella]
was comfort with."

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu told
parliament the Turin Olympics could be a target for terrorists, but
stressed there were no "clear signals'' of any imminent attacks
being planned.

Pisanu cited messages posted on Web sites with links to al-Qaida
that have threatened attacks against Italy because it has troops in
Iraq.

He said police had devised a broad security plan for the Games,
providing for 9,000 police officers, a central control room
connected to 21 onsite operational centers, and a central national
information room connected to police and intelligence services of
numerous countries.

Last month, the head of the Interior Ministry's office running
Turin security, Francesco Tagliente, told reporters that foreign
security agents would be barred from carrying firearms during the
games -- except for agents protecting VIP visitors, which would be
decided on a case-by-case basis.

About 2,500 athletes, 1 million spectators and 5,000 officials
are expected at the Olympics.