ROME -- An American travel advisory on possible dangers in Italy ballooned Thursday into an issue in the close national election campaign here, with opposition politicians suggesting that the advisory could be used as ammunition against them.
Silvio Berlusconi, the center-right prime minister who is battling to remain in office, immediately seized on the advisory, saying that the "security concerns" addressed in it were caused by demonstrators aligned with the center-left opposition.
The travel advisory, issued by the State Department on its Web site this week, warned Americans to avoid large crowds, mentioning specifically a violent demonstration March 11 in Milan carried out by anti-globalization activists.
The advisory, not as serious as a more formal travel warning, also spoke of "the continuing threat of terrorist attacks" in Italy and mentioned Al Qaeda specifically.
Romano Prodi, Berlusconi's main opponent, who is supported by several leftist parties, was concerned enough by the implication that leftist demonstrators constituted a threat that he called the American ambassador, Ronald Spogli, for an explanation Thursday.
"He explained to me that it is standard practice, but I remain very surprised," Prodi said on Italian radio Thursday.
Ben Duffy, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said that while such advisories were not common in Western Europe, Washington had issued 70 of them in the past year.
A similar one was issued earlier this year as a result of widespread rioting on the outskirts of Paris.
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