The Italian Almanac

La Maddalena archipelago

Italian News - November 24

The United States is to close a military base on the Italian island of Sardinia now considered surplus to requirements for the defence of the Mediterranean, Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino announced. The base, on the La Maddalena archipelago on the northern tip of the island, is a leftover from the Cold War. The area is one of the most beautiful natural sites on Sardinia, facing the French island of Corsica, and environmentalists have long called for the base to be shut.

The news was given by Martino in a statement issued late on Wednesday but he did not say when the base would close. On Tuesday he had announced the withdrawal of US submarines stationed at the neighbouring islet of Santo Stefano. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had told Martino of the decision at a meeting in Washington at the start of the week.

"It is not only the submarines but the whole American base which will be transferred to another country," said the Italian minister, who will meet Sardinia's regional leader Renato Storu on Friday to discuss the impact of the pullout for the island, Italy's second largest after Sicily.

Italy and the United States agreed the American military presence in Sardinia in 1972, at the height of the Cold War, though environmentalists have called for the closure of the base claiming it was polluting the area with radioactive substances.