Euro 2008 hosts play down terrorism fears

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ZURICH, Oct 12 (Reuters) Security chiefs on Friday played down reports of terrorism threats against next year's European Championship, following a two-day summit in Zurich.

Martin Jaeggi, head of Switzerland's security operations for the June 2008 tournament, said the recent arrests of three people in Austria was not being treated as a genuine threat to Euro 2008. One of the three was freed for lack of evidence.

Police said there were no indications of attacks being actively planned and no one had been charged with any crime.

''It seems Euro 2008 was mentioned in passing in talks between these alleged extremists but not in a way that needs to be taken seriously,'' Jaeggi told Reuters.

''On the other hand it is clearly a good thing that we are receiving this information so we can clarify the situation.'' Jaeggi rejected suggestions that a riot in the Swiss capital Berne on Saturday reflected badly on the state of police preparations for Euro 2008.

More than two dozen police officers were injured after leftist protesters disrupted an officially-sanctioned rally of the country's right-wing Swiss People's Party.

The rally was scheduled to take place in front of the national parliament, close to where Berne will stage public viewing events during Euro 2008.

UNDER REVIEW ''I don't want to comment on what precisely happened in Berne as this is currently under review by the city's police force,'' Jaeggi said.

''When we receive their report we will be able to say if anything needs changing as far as our own preparations are concerned. In general, though, I don't think we can compare this political event with a sporting tournament which is being planned as a peaceful event.'' Jaeggi acknowledged that Switzerland's security forces would be stretched to the limit by the three-week event and said organisers planned to call on French and German police back-up if necessary.

''We know that police cover is relatively thin in Switzerland with one officer for around every 500 citizens.'' ''In our neighbouring countries it is more like one officer for every 300 citizens which is why we have already signed an agreement this week with the French authorities.

''We are in talks with Germany to see what is possible from their end but we will only firm that up once we know how many high-security matches are taking place in Switzerland.'' Jaeggi said matches would be classified as high, middle, or low risk following the tournament's final draw in the Swiss city of Lucerne on December 2.

Euro 2008 runs from June 7 to 29 with Switzerland staging matches in Geneva, Basel, Bern and Zurich. Austria will host games in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Vienna.

Reuters SSC GC1930

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