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Clean-up claims are a load of rubbish

Silvio Berlusconi declared yesterday that he had "civilised'' Naples by ending its rubbish crisis -- although photographs showed that the mounds of waste had simply been moved into the suburbs.

The Italian prime minister said that he had honoured a pledge made two months ago to sort out the situation that has crippled the city and the Campania region for more than seven months.

Residents had seen thousands of tons of rubbish pile up in their streets, with corruption and mafia involvement in the collection business being held responsible. Locals resorted to burning the stinking piles this summer -- releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in the southern port city Mr Berlusconi said: "Naples is now a civilised city of the West once again.

"What happened in Campania is the result of a general madness for which the civilian, political and criminal worlds must take responsibility. When I came to power, Europe found Italy stuck in a corner, but within just a few weeks the music has changed.''

Aerial photographs did appear to show that the centre of Naples was free of the stinking piles of rubbish that had blighted it since January.

But other photographs published on the website of 'La Repubblica' showed that the bags had been moved to the outer suburbs.

Mr Berlusconi did say that it would take three years to resolve the Campania waste problem and that the construction of four incinerators was his main aim.

However, Barbara Hellferich, of the European Commission on Environment, said: "Mr Berlusconi can say what he wants but for us its results that count. The Italian government must show that it has a plan to tackle the problem and it will stick to it.''

The EU had threatened Italy with heavy fines and hoteliers and tourist officials blame the crisis for a drop in visitors. (© The Daily Telegraph)

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