President George W. Bush will skip a visit to a central Rome neighborhood for security reasons, a move that highlighted fears of possibly violent demonstrations against his visit to the city on Saturday.
The Sant’Egidio Roman Catholic community, which has been nominated several times for the Nobel peace prize, said on Friday they were told by U.S. officials that Bush would not visit their headquarters in the Trastevere neighborhood.
Trastevere is one of Rome’s oldest quarters, made up of narrow, cobbled alleys difficult for a motorcade to negotiate.
The [US] embassy advised U.S. citizens to avoid the anti-Bush protests. “To avoid becoming targets of opportunity, Americans should avoid the demonstrations, bearing in mind that violence may erupt,” it said on its Web site.
A big anti-Bush march is planned to wind through the city for several miles between two large squares. Police said they feared the demonstrations may turn violent.
“He would probably get a warmer welcome in Cuba,” said Roberto Calderoli, senator from the opposition Northern League.
Italian security officials had been nervous about Bush visiting Trastevere. Rome authorities had planned to effectively shut down the entire neighborhood while Bush was there.