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League Won’t Allow Racist Signs

February 1, 2000

ROME (AP) _ Play will be interrupted at Italian League games if banners touting racist slogans appear in the stands, the Italian government said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Enzo Bianco and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri said any racist banners would be removed. They also announced plans to increase stadium security.

``What we want is a strong and determined action to banish any type of violence from all sports arenas, be it physical or verbal, including the display of banners that incite racism or anti-Semitism,″ Bianco said.

On Sunday, police at Rome’s Olympic Stadium confiscated a banner reading, ``Honor to Arkan the Tiger,″ a tribute to the Serb paramilitary leader killed Jan. 15..

Arkan, whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic, was indicted last year by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The presence of right-wing extremism in Italian stadiums became an issue last year when two bombs planted in downtown Rome were attributed to anti-Semitic soccer fans.

At stadiums in recent weeks, police have removed signs with swastikas and references to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Police said last week they had identified two supporters of the AS Roma club who displayed neo-Nazi insignias during matches.

Bianco held out the possibility that a team could be forced to play its home games in an empty stadium if its fans repeatedly bring unwanted banners.

``We will do everything to prevent actions of intolerance that are unacceptable in a civilized society,″ Melandri said. ``The stadium can not be a theater for criminal expression.″

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