Italy Deploys Soldiers
Another rather fascist move by Berlusconi
In the most controversial part of the exercise, about 1,000 troops will be sent on patrol alongside the police in large Italian cities such as Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin. The move has prompted critics to warn of the militarisation of the cities.
The deployment of soldiers is intended to free up the Carabinieri for other duties.
The government has repeatedly linked rising crime rates to illegal immigration, which last month prompted Berlusconi and his ministers to declare a national state of emergency.
The deployment of the military is the latest high-profile element in a campaign that already includes the fingerprinting those of who live in camps on the outskirts of Italy's big cities. The vast majority of such people are Roma.
The opposition criticised the move as "window dressing", warning that it could hurt the country's image abroad and even deter tourists.
But Ignazio La Russa, the defence minister and a leading figure in the formerly neofascist National Alliance, dismissed claims that the soldiers would scare tourists or residents, saying the troops could help address citizens' concerns about security.