Sicily revokes permission for U.S. military satellite station

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 29, 2013 2:04 PM

PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) - The Sicilian regional government in Italy has revoked permission for the United States to build a military satellite station on the island, its governor said on Friday, after protests by residents who said it could pose a health risk.

The planned ground station was part of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), an ultra high-frequency satellite network aimed at significantly boosting communications capacity for the U.S. military and its allies.

Concerns about the effect the station's electromagnetic waves could have on the health of residents around the town of Niscemi, including fears that the waves could cause cancer, had provoked protests on the island.

The regional government of the semi-autonomous island last month delayed construction and called for an independent study into its health and environmental impact.

The Italian government said this month the demonstrations risked compromising operations at Sigonella, a U.S. naval base in Sicily.

"Through the relevant department, permission for the construction of MUOS has been definitively withdrawn," Sicilian Governor Rosario Crocetta told reporters in the island's capital of Palermo on Friday.

He did not say whether the decision to revoke permission for the site was related to the study or to health concerns.

His remarks came a day before a planned protest expected to draw several thousand in Niscemi, which local groups of the governor's own Democratic Party were due to attend.

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In a visit to Italy in January, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he understood the concerns of residents but that U.S. studies had concluded there would be no health risk.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The satellite network also has stations in the United States and Australia.

(Reporting by Vladimiro Pantaleone and Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Pravin Char)