Italy officials meet over shooting and riots

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MILAN, Nov 12 (Reuters) Italian soccer authorities were meeting today to discuss measures aimed at tackling widespread fan violence sparked by the shooting of a Lazio supporter by a police officer yesterday.

Riots hit Rome, with fans attacking a police barracks as well as the Olympic Stadium and causing extensive damage to the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee next door.

At least 40 police were hurt in Rome alone, officials said.

A top-flight game between Atalanta and AC Milan in Bergamo was also abandoned after seven minutes when fans tried to break down a glass barrier keeping them from the pitch.

Soccer officials look set to make a decision later today over whether to suspend the league.

''I have asked the soccer authorities if there is the possibility of a strong gesture, in particular the suspension of the championships for the next few weeks,'' Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri told reporters.

Italy play in Scotland in a crunch Euro 2008 qualifier on Saturday, meaning there is no top-flight action next weekend, but lower league action could be curtailed sooner.

The world champions would be in serious danger of missing next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland if they lost in Glasgow but coach Roberto Donadoni has other things on his mind.

''What happened in Bergamo and Rome is pure madness. I also believe we are hostages to this violence but we cannot be slaves in this way,'' Donadoni told reporters.

Police said the fatal shooting of Gabriele Sandri was accidental and are holding talks with the government to clear up how the officer made such a ''tragic error''.

The unnamed officer encountered a disturbance between fans of Rome club Lazio and Turin's Juventus at a motorway service station in the Tuscan city of Arezzo.

''I didn't point it at anything, I didn't aim at anybody,'' he told Corriere della Sera. ''The first shot I fired into the air and the second left me while I was running. Now I have destroyed two families, the man's and mine.'' The officer is under investigation for manslaughter and has been re-assigned to internal duties, police said.

Italy has a well-known hooligan problem and yesterday's violence mirrored riots outside a Catania match in Sicily in February, where a policeman was killed and the league was suspended for a short time.

That incident led to strict new security measures at soccer stadiums but authorities may have to look again at the rules amid calls to ban away fans from all grounds in future.

MEASURED RESPONSE Soccer authorities will also meet to discuss what to do about the Inter Milan v Lazio and AS Roma v Cagliari matches, which were postponed yesterday because of the shooting and whether to play the Atalanta game or award the points to Milan.

A report last month said injuries at stadiums caused by fan violence had dropped by 80 per cent from last season but Abete has often said that soccer authorities can do little to stamp out trouble away from stadiums, such as in Arezzo.

The matter is complicated because Juve fans in particular live across Italy, not just in their base of Turin, meaning fans travel huge distances to see their team and often come across rival fans on routes not usually associated with soccer traffic.

The soccer federation have also pointed out that the shooting was very different from February's death and that the response should be measured.

However, Sandri's father posted a message in his shop window saying: ''Yesterday a dirty bastard killed my son, may he be damned forever.'' Reuters YA DB2138

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