Berlusconi declares Naples waste crisis 'over'

As police swooped on mafia-controlled landfills across Naples, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the city's garbage crisis was over. But he warned it would take three years to come up with a permanent solution.


Police seized mafia-controlled landfill sites around Naples Friday and charged 17 suspects as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi travelled to the city to declare the waste crisis over.

Speaking after a specially-convened cabinet meeting in the southern city, Berlusconi said the "dramatic phase" of the crisis was over but warned that the problem would only be definitively solved when a number of new incinerators went into service.

The first would become operational next January, he said.

In the 58 days since the government announced an action plan to end the crisis, "Naples and the region had once again become clean," Berlusconi told journalists.

"A new phase is starting, one which consists of making the system of waste treatment work with the construction of the incinerators," he said.

The premier said earlier Friday in Rome it would take three years for the problem to be completely solved.

The 17 suspects indicted on Friday, some of whom were already in jail convicted of other crimes, have been variously charged with criminal association with the Mafia, environmental damage and illegal waste-trafficking, according to an official statement.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of untreated waste piled up in Naples and surrounding areas ahead of April's general election, with Berlusconi making a solution a key plank of his campaign.

The long-running issue was blamed on a lack of local incinerators, and landfill sites controlled by the local branch of the Mafia, the Camorra, some of which were used for illegal dumping of toxic waste.

But while the historic centre of the city and its immediate vicinity is clean, the rubbish continues to be piled up in the outlying areas, according to an AFP photographer in the city on Friday.

Three of the sites seized by police Friday had been opened illegally and the other five contained unauthorised waste from hospitals and industry in the north and central parts of Italy, a police spokesman for the Caserta region said.

The eight landfills were managed by the Casalesi, the most powerful clan in the Camorra.

Naples and the surrounding region have been placed under a state of emergency for the past 14 years as the problem of untreated waste grew -- earning the city a prosecution in May this year by the European Commission.

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