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Europe

Italy's Berlusconi plans to shift G8 summit venue to quake-hit town

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants to switch the venue of July's Group of Eight (G8) summit to L'Aquila, the medieval town ravaged by an earthquake, in a gesture of solidarity.

An aerial view of the destruction in the city of L'Aquila, central Italy, Monday, April 6, 2009.

Berlusconi wants to bring the G8 Summit to L'Aquila

"What seat would be more appropriate than a land wounded by the earthquake?" Berlusconi told a news conference in L'Aquila on Thursday, after holding a cabinet meeting in the stricken town.

Berlusconi said moving the meeting of the heads of government of the world's richest countries, currently set to take place on La Maddalena, a small island off Sardinia, would be a "positive signal for the more than 60,000 people still living in temporary camps."

"The 21 heads of government who come will be able to see first-hand the wounds caused by this earthquake," Berlusconi added. "I think it could work out very well."

Berlusconi looking to divert funds to disaster zone

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi talks on the telephone alongside the River Rhine in Kehl, Germany

Berlusconi will need to consult with G8 leaders on the move

The Italian leader, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the G8 club of industrialized nations, added that the 220 million euros ($286.5 million) needed for summit security and infrastructure in Sardinia could this way be invested in the earthquake region instead.

Berlusconi acknowledged logistics and cost problems at the original venue on a Sardinian island were putting the original plans in jeopardy. However, the decision to move the conference to L'Aquila could render moot more than two years of planning for the event.

The decision to move the summit was dependent on approval from the other nations attending the summit scheduled for July 8-10

There have already been signs of dissent within Berlusconi's cabinet over moving the G8 summit, with at least one minister saying it was "implausible" and would be difficult to pull off.

Cabinet increases aid to quake region

The April 6 quake in the central region of Abruzzo killed 296 people, flattened entire areas of some towns and made some 65,000 people homeless.

The cabinet earlier on Thursday approved a decree raising up to 8 billion euros to rebuild the quake-hit areas and fund emergency services.

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