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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK

World: Europe

Italy 'KGB spies' named

The list has created huge media interest

Ten years after the end of the Cold War, a parliamentary commission in Italy has made public a list of more than 250 Italians accused of being spies.

The names were identified in documents given to the West by KGB defector, Vasili Mitrokhin.

BBC Rome correspondent David Willey: "Parliament's photocopier ran out of paper"
The 645 pages identify both obscure and important Italians, including a former Communist Party leader, diplomats, a right-wing senator, business people, academics, journalists, students and a monk.

Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, a former communist, played down the allegation that one of his government's supporters had been in the pay of the Soviet KGB.

He said all the so-called revelations from the list related to facts that were already well known in Italy.

Mr D'Alema's centre-left government had been under pressure for days to publish the list.

[ image: Mr Mitrokhin has caused a stir with his revelations]
Mr Mitrokhin has caused a stir with his revelations
His critics accused him of trying to protect former comrades, some whom remain allies.

The former Communist Party leader Armando Cossutta, whose small leftist party supports the government, was the first to be named.

He has laughed off the allegation that he spied for the KGB.

"The documents show I had contact with the Soviets. What a surprise," he said.

Mr Cossutta was one of the founding fathers of the Italian Communist Party - once the most powerful Communist Party in the West.

[ image: Mr Cossutta:
Mr Cossutta: "What a surprise!"
"A real boomerang for the right," leftist politician Carlo Leoni said.

"They expected to find a list of Communists and instead have a list of people of all political tendencies."

Conservative senator and journalist Jas Gawronski is listed as being "cultivated".

Mr Gawronski was spokesman for media mogul Silvio Berlusconi when he was prime minister in 1994.

He worked as a correspondent in Moscow in 1979-1981 where he says he was "followed, being obstructed in my work" by the KGB.

Many spies

Mr Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist, said that Italy had more KGB spies than any other European country except France.

Italian prosecutors are now studying the information.

The UK acquired the documents when Mr Mitrokhin defected from the former Soviet Union in 1992.

The UK passed them on to Italy in 1996, but the Italian Prime Minister at the time, current European Commission President Romano Prodi, insists that he was never informed.

A conviction for spying carries a possible 15-year prison term.

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