Italy's 5-Star leader Grillo calls for gas pipeline referendum

ROME, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Beppe Grillo, leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), said on Sunday he would call for a referendum over the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project that is due to bring Azeri gas to Italy by the end of the decade.

The plan to build a pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey and Italy, which is heavily dependent on foreign supplies of gas, has sparked protest to which former comedian Grillo added his voice this weekend in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

“I was in Puglia yesterday, alongside its citizens, to say no to TAP,” Grillo, who is known for fiery speeches, wrote on his blog, calling the project “a work of science fiction”.

Grillo said M5S, which burst onto the political scene last year winning 25 percent of the vote in its first parliamentary election but saw its support drop in May’s European elections, would call for a referendum.

The government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is keen on completing the TAP project, as well as supporting the South Stream pipeline that will transport Russian gas into Europe.

Renzi said late last month that the way had been cleared for the TAP project, from which France’s Total and Germany’s E.ON are withdrawing as Italian gas demand falls.

Grillo said the project would threaten tourism and the natural beauty of the area, and that the people should decide whether it is carried out.

“If they come to build a pipeline in any part of Puglia, even if they bring their army, we will line up our army,” he said. (Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Mark Potter)