Rome ready to receive Obama amid tight security

IMG class=hide alt=”Rome ready to receive Obama amid tight security” src=”” (By Stefania Fumo) (ANSA) – Rome, March 26 – Italian and White House agents on Wednesday were busy applying the final security measures at the United States ambassador’s residence in Rome ahead of an official visit by US President Barack Obama, who lands at the city’s Fiumicino airport aboard Air Force One later in the day. PThe room he will sleep in at the 15th-century Villa Taverna, where US Ambassador John R. Phillips lives, has been secured and sealed by White House agents, while Italian bomb squads, anti-sabotage and dog units are combing the neighborhood./PPManhole covers have been sealed, dumpsters removed, and snipers placed on nearby buildings, while the surrounding area has been put off limits to all traffic except drivers with US embassy passes./PPFor days, Italy’s capital has been awash in American agents mingling with tourists and locals ahead of Obama’s visit, which kicks off Thursday with a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican./PPObama then meets with President Giorgio Napolitano at the presidential palace in what will be the fifth such meeting between the two leaders, after one in Rome and three in Washington DC. The two are known to have a cordial relationship, with the White House calling Napolitano ”a good friend”./PPThe face-to-face meeting will be followed by a working lunch that will include US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, Ambassador Phillips, and Italy’s ambassador to the US, Claudio Bisogniero./PPIssues on the table could include bilateral relations, NATO, Ukraine, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan, officials said./PPObama then meets with Premier Matteo Renzi at the Renaissance-built Villa Madama, where Italy often receives international guests./PPHe will also tour the Colosseum, which will be off-limits to the public beginning at 13:00 local time, as will the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, police said./PPItaly has deployed 1,000 police in the capital to watch over the American president as well as any other potential targets, such as embassies. The bomb squad is also afoot, with dog units combing the presidential itinerary, while river police scour the Tiber river near St. Peter’s Basilica and the Holy See./PPThroughout the visit, Obama’s motorcade will be watched over by a helicopter and by snipers placed on every building along the route. The president will be escorted at all times by an estimated 200 US special forces and military personnel, including marines./PPRome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, locally known as Fiumicino, was secured ahead of his arrival, with Fiumicino airspace expected to be shut down for a half hour while the US president lands, authorities said./PPA dozen or so C-130 transport planes had already landed at nearby Ciampino airport, bringing more than 20 bulletproof cars with White House security agents on board. Also on Wednesday, Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli hospital made known it is ”primed for effective response to any medical emergency, including non-conventional ones”. Special sections have been set up for Obama and his staff, with decontamination areas in case of a chemical or biological attack, and a heliport on 24-hour standby./PPObama’s visit to Rome and the Vatican is to be his next-to-last stop in a week-long international mission to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the Holy See, and Saudi Arabia./PPHis trip has already included international talks at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. He arrives in Rome from Brussels, where he is attending an EU-US summit and meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen./PPObama was last in Italy in 2009, when he attended a G8 summit of industrialized nations in the city of L’Aquila./P
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