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Pope calls for Italy to respect immigrant obligations, rights

ROME (AP)— Opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi urged Italy to close its borders to Romanian workers and a conservative ally called Sunday for the expulsion of tens of thousands of immigrants amid public outrage over a wave of violent crimes blamed on foreigners.

Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to the debate over the balance between citizen safety and treatment of foreigners, reminding authorities that immigrants have both obligations and rights.

The pope weighed in as lawmakers prepared to debate the government’s response to recent crime, including fast-track expulsions of Romanians and other EU citizens deemed dangerous and bulldozing shantytowns housing immigrants.

“In Rome alone, 20,000 expulsions should be carried out right away,” right-wing leader Gianfranco Fini, a key Berlusconi ally, said on a TV talk show Sunday.

Romanians have been detained as suspects in several recent high-profile crimes, including the rape of a woman on church steps in northern Italy, a mugging that left a Rome cyclist in a coma for weeks before he died, and the robbery of a Milan coffee bar in which the elderly owner was beaten and her daughter raped.

The wave of crime has sparked a backlash against foreigners.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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