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NATO: Airlines Cancel Flights Amid Summit Fears

Rome, 27 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- All Italian airlines and at least one foreign carrier announced yesterday that they will suspend their Rome operations during a NATO gathering of world leaders on 21 May to forestall fears of suicide hijackings. The NATO meeting is being staged at a military air base less than two minutes flying time from Rome's Fiumicino airport. Italian authorities are concerned that militants may try to overpower a commercial airliner and target the summit center.

The government has ordered all companies using Fiumicino on 21 May to put security staff on their flights, and said fighter jets would patrol the skies in case of possible airborne attack. However, Italian carriers have decided instead to ground their planes between 1000 and 1500 local time on 21 May, saying they did not have enough security staff trained in airline safety to meet government requirements.

Greece's Olympic Airways has also cancelled a flight coinciding with the summit.