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Berlusconi pledges final blow to organized crime

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi makes a statesment at the end of the NATO summit in Strasbourg April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced a new strategy on Saturday designed to deal a final blow to organized crime before his current term of office expires in four years’ time.

Berlusconi, elected last year on a law-and-order platform, said details of the plan would be made public after the summer. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the government planned to build on its success in seizing mafia property and using soldiers to patrol the streets.

Berlusconi said his government, “supported by a large and solid majority, with the possibility to remain in place for another four years,” had the opportunity to implement a long-term crime-busting strategy.

“This is a long-term plan, designed to be definitive, in the fight against the forces of evil: not just against common crime, but also against organized crime,” he told a news conference, promising to land a “definitive blow.”

Maroni said crime had fallen by 14 percent since the center-right government took office last year.

Responding to opposition criticism of chronic overcrowding in Italian prisons, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano said up to 35 percent of prison inmates in Italy were foreigners and he appealed to the European Union for support or funds to build more institutions.

“Europe cannot close its eyes any more,” he said.

Reporting by Valentina Rusconi; writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Andrew Dobbie