The Italian Almanac
Italian News - May 27
American nuclear submarines are to leave Sardinia, US Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli confirmed Thursday after talks with Sardinia Governor Renato Soru. Spogli said the United States are ready to discuss with new Italian Defence Minister Arturo Parisi a timeframe for dismantling the Santo Stefano base on the small island of La Maddalena just off the northernmost tip of the island.
When their departure was announced by then defence minister Antonio Martino last year, Soru called it "fantastic news". Soru scored a landslide election win last year on the slogan, "We are friends of the Americans but in the future we'd like to see them here only as tourists".
Opposition swelled after an accident in October 2003 in which a sub raked the bottom of the sea near the base - an incident for which the boat's commander was dismissed. Then, a petition was launched last summer after rumours of plans to enlarge the base. Local officials stepped up their campaign against the base in January 2004 when a French research institute found that the waters near the base were four times more radioactive than would usually be expected.
The mayor of the nearest town to the base said "we've been living with this danger for 33 years. Now we want to find out when and how the subs are going to go. We have shared many things with the Americans, we've been linked by a great friendship that we want to keep up, but now our region has to go ahead on its own two feet, in complete autonomy".
La Maddalena is part of a wildlife and sea reserve along with the nearby island of Caprera - the retirement hideaway of famed Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi.