State Department issues Italy caution

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NEW YORK -- Symbols of American capitalism in Italy could be targeted by terrorists in the next month, according to the U.S. State Department, which cautioned Americans in the country to be on alert and to avoid suspicious objects.

"U.S. citizens are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to increase their security awareness," the State Department statement said.

Italian tourism officials said it was too early to assess the impact of the public announcement on U.S. visitor levels to Italy, already depressed by the worldwide slowdown in travel.

A public announcement is a short-term alert of lower urgency than a travel warning.

"The important thing is that this announcement is not a warning," said Eugenio Magnani, director of the Italian Government Tourist Board in New York, who added that Italy remains a safe destination.

"Americans can still travel to Italy; they only have to be more careful in visiting these 'symbols of American capitalism.' "

U.S. embassies and consulates, and American fast-food outlets could be among the most obvious such symbols in Italy, said another spokesman at the tourist board.

Security at Italian airports and railroads was heightened in response to the announcement, he added.

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