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WORLD SPORT

Premier gives security assurances

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Berlusconi said 'No government has done what we have'

ROME, Italy -- Italy has spared no effort to provide security for the Winter Olympics, premier Silvio Berlusconi said in Rome on Tuesday.

"We have worked thoroughly for security and I think that no government has ever done what we have," he said on state-run radio just days before the Games start in Torino on Friday.

Security arrangements include increased intelligence and co-ordination between various law enforcement agencies, he explained.

"For certain events we are on high alert," said Berlusconi, referring to the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April and Pope Benedict XVI's installation Mass.

"Certainly we have acknowledged that there is an extra danger and so we are now being...even more attentive."

Italy is mounting a massive security operation in Torino, with around 10,000 police reinforced by soldiers to protect Olympic venues.

NATO is providing two AWACS surveillance planes to patrol over northern Italy during the Games which run until February 26.

Security officials have also said that they are increasing their efforts in response to the worldwide protests among Muslims over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, called on everybody in the country to work for the success of the Games.

"I am confident that all, citizens and institutions, will work in harmony for the success of these Olympics," he said in a message for the opening of the Games, released by his office.

Rogge praises village

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge praised the athletes' village in Turin, where he will be staying for the Games.

Rogge, who prefers to stay at athletes' village instead of far more luxurious official IOC hotels during Olympic Games, said the village met all requirements for top athletes.

"I think that it is very top quality," he told reporters on Tuesday after visiting most areas including the medical centre, the gym and the internet cafe.

Rogge said the fact that the village, which cost 145 million euros ($174 million) and was completed three months ago, was located very near to many of the Games sports venues was an advantage.

"This is really in the city itself. It is in the centre of the city," Rogge said.

Separate athletes' villages operate in the mountains for the other sporting events.

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