Rome braces for 'chaos' as Obama visits

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Roads are being closed ahead of Barack Obama's visit to the city. Photo: Rosie Scammell
18:53 CET+01:00
‪Security has been heightened across Rome ahead of US President Barack Obama's arrival on Wednesday evening, with parts of the city in lockdown and police out in force.‬

In preparation for the state visit, Italian authorities have been making security checks taking in the city’s sewers, bins and parked cars, Il Tempo said.

On Wednesday morning a heavy police presence was already visible outside the fortress-like US embassy, on Via Veneto.

Police tape warning drivers of imminent road closures has been rolled out across the city, to mixed effect. Not known for their adherence to the rules, some Roman drivers have chosen to ignore such warnings:

Rome daily Il Messaggero on Wednesday warned of the “risk of chaos” in central Rome, as the area around the Colosseum goes into lock-down for Obama’s tour of the ancient site.

The red zone includes Via dei Fori, a key avenue which in recent months Mayor Ignazio Marino has been fighting to close to traffic.

After landing at Fiumicino airport on Wednesday, Obama will begin tomorrow at the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis. The president will then go on to a working lunch with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, before sitting down for talks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The day’s events will see the presidential car flanked by military vehicles, with snipers along the route, Il Tempo reported.

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But while Italian authorities have put sweeping security plans in place, much depends on the US Secret Service which has already been hit by scandal since Obama began his European tour on Monday.

Three agents, whose job it is to protect the president if he is attacked, have been sent back to the US after being found drunk in Amsterdam. One was found passed out in a hotel hallway, AFP reported.

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