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italians alarmed at discovery of huge us munitions

  1. klown

    3,363 posts.
    14/01/03

    ITALIANS, already nervous about war with Iraq, were stunned to learn yesterday that they are sitting on top of the biggest American ammunition dump outside the United States.
    Camp Darby, which nestles in a thousand hectares of pinewoods on the Tuscan coast between Pisa and Livorno, is a storehouse for 20,000 tonnes of artillery and aerial munitions, 8,000 tonnes of high explosive and “enough equipment to arm an entire mechanised brigade of tanks and APCs”, according to a report.

    It has emerged that the base was the main source of armaments used during the 1991 Gulf War and is expected to serve the same purpose in any new campaign. It also supplied 60 per cent of the ordnance — including nearly 4,000 cluster bombs — dropped on Serbia by Nato warplanes during the 1999 Kosovo campaign.

    The report, issued by the Global Security Foundation in the United States and published yesterday in the respected daily Corriere della Sera, will bolster anti-war sentiment in Italy. The Berlusconi Government has offered the United States use of its bases and airspace, but opposition to war with Iraq is strong both on the Left and in the Roman Catholic Church.

    A receptionist at the Hotel Mediterraneo, next to the base, said: “We knew that it’s a military base, but not that it has such a huge arsenal.”

    “We are all afraid,” said a woman wheeling her baby son in a pushchair through the village of Stagno, which borders the camp. “The winds of war are blowing, and we feel very close to it here.”

    The armaments are stored in 125 hangar-style buildings, which line the camp behind a seemingly endless green fence. The camp, set up in 1951, is named after General William Darby, an American special forces officer who died during the Allied liberation of Italy from Nazi occupation in 1945.

    It is one of several US bases on Italian soil, including the airbases at Aviano in northern Italy and Sigonella in Sicily and the naval base at Naples, headquarters of the US Sixth Fleet and of Nato Southern Command.

    Corriere della Sera said that Italians would be appalled to learn that two years ago underground bunkers at the base built in the 1970s and used to store munitions in controlled temperatures had begun to develop “structural problems”.

    US Army engineers had used steel plates to reinforce the bunkers, but this had only made the situation worse. Cracks had widened and chunks of cement had fallen on the stored weapons and bombs. Twelve of the bunkers had been cleared of their contents, with extreme caution, with bomb squads removing 100,000 missiles and bombs and 23 tonnes of high explosive with the help of remote-controlled robots. The report said that it was a small miracle that nothing had gone wrong.

    US officials emphasised that Camp Darby also had a humanitarian function, storing thousands of beds and tonnes of clothing for aid missions to the Balkans, Kurdish areas and Africa. It houses bulldozers and other heavy equipment for airlifting to areas of natural catastrophe. But the report said that “if necessary an entire US armoured brigade could leave Camp Darby for Kuwait without needing a change of socks — it would be equipped with everything from cannons to underwear.”

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