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Last Updated: Friday, 24 December 2004, 20:56 GMT
Vatican police get 'Lamborghinis'
Italian policemen driving a new Lamborghini patrol car in St Peter's Square, Rome
No more blisters for police officers on duty in Rome's St Peter's Square
Italian police patrolling St Peter's Square over Christmas must have rejoiced when they heard they would be given four brand-new Lamborghini cars.

But instead of the firm's much-coveted luxury sports car, they have ended up driving funny-looking golf carts.

Despite their limited speed of 40km/h (25mph), they are a great relief for the officers on duty, who normally have to patrol the huge square on foot.

The cars have electric batteries with a range of 80km (50 miles).

The Lamborghini "street model", as it is known, has come to the square just in time for Christmas - one of the busiest times of the year.

'Deterrent for villains'

"People who come here don't need to worry," said Salvatore Festa, chief of Italian police in charge of patrolling the square - one of the world's largest pedestrian areas - and its surroundings.

"[The new cars] will make it quicker for us to move around and more rapid in possible pursuit situations," he added.

"But it is also more functional for personnel, who don't have to stand in the rain or take 25 minutes to do a round of the square," he added.

Being visible among the crowds, the car will serve as a "deterrent for villains", police hope.

Only two cars will be in action at any one time, with the other two charging up their batteries.

St Peter's Basilica, which attracts huge crowds on Christmas Eve for the traditional midnight mass, is always at the centre of security concerns due to the symbolic value of the church for Christianity.

The Christmas service, celebrated by 84-year-old Pope John Paul II, will be broadcast live to 72 countries.

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