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Monday Feb. 25, 2002



Investigators looking into holes in underground pipe tunnels as probe into Moroccan cell deepens

Associated Press

Italian authorities are investigating whether holes in the walls of a utility tunnel near the U.S. Embassy in Rome are linked to a group of Moroccan men police suspect were planning an attack on the embassy.

Photographs of the holes, which were large enough for a person to crawl through, have been forwarded to the prosecutor handling the case of nine Moroccans detained last week, the Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica reported yesterday.

The U.S. Embassy has been informed about at least one tunnel hole, but is awaiting more information from investigators before coming to any conclusions, an embassy official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Moroccans were arrested after police raided a Rome apartment Tuesday. Police said that during the raid, they found a cyanide-based compound and maps of Rome highlighting the U.S. Embassy and the capital's water supply.

In an initial appearance before a judge yesterday, the Moroccans denied they were part of any terrorist group and said they didn't know how the cyanide compound got into the apartment, the ANSA news agency said, citing defense attorneys. The judge ruled the men could be held further.

Investigators examined the tunnels, which hold pipelines for city water, electricity, phone and gas supplies, and discovered the holes on Wednesday night, the news reports said. The tunnel runs along Via Bomcompagni, which is adjacent to the U.S. Embassy.

Investigators believe the holes were made sometime after Jan. 15, the last time authorized work was done in the tunnel, the newspapers said. It was unclear where the holes led.

In a part of the tunnel further from the embassy, investigators found a ladder and a work uniform that was different from the type used by utility workers, Corriere della Sera reported.

Calls to the paramilitary police officials in charge of the case were not answered yesterday.


War worries, abundant supply keep gas prices in limbo

Associated Press

Gasoline prices rose less than a third of a cent per gallon over the past two weeks as abundant supply counterbalanced concerns about potential conflicts in the Middle East.

Friday's weighted price per gallon for all grades and taxes was $1.15, up 0.31 of a cent per gallon from Feb. 8, according to the Lundberg survey of 8,000 gas stations nationwide.

The price of self-serve regular averaged $1.12 a gallon, less than a penny higher than two weeks ago, analyst Trilby Lundberg said yesterday.

Prices tended to rise west of the Rockies, while many motorists in the rest of the country paid less, she said.

Gas prices have remained stable overall because two market factors are canceling each other out, Lundberg said.

"The possibility of conflict in the Mideast is pulling prices up, while at the same time, pulling down prices are plentiful supplies of crude oil and gasoline," she said.

Recent tough talk by President Bush about Iraq has fueled concerns about possible military action, although there is broad agreement among analysts that the United States is not about to launch an attack against Iraq.

The national weighted average price of gasoline, including taxes, at self-serve pumps Friday was about $1.22 per gallon for mid-grade and $1.31 for premium.


Officers seeking pay for being on call while off-duty

Associated Press

More than 100 Tucson police officers have signed on to a lawsuit seeking pay for being on call while off-duty.

The detectives are seeking "pager pay" - payment for officers who are on call but not on duty and must wear pagers at all times.

Officers have to follow "excessively restrictive" guidelines that prevent them from "engaging in personal activities," according to the lawsuit.

"The detectives are not compensated on pager pay. They can't go out of town. They can't go out drinking," said Richard Anemone, president of the Tucson Police Officers Association.

The union has tried several times to negotiate for the pay, Anemone said. The Pima County Sheriff's Department, for example, pays $1.30 an hour to its on-call employees.

The lawsuit was filed in January in Pima County Superior Court and transferred to U.S. District Court this month.

The city doesn't feel it has to pay the officers while they're on call, said Merle Joy Turchik, an assistant city attorney.

In a response submitted Wednesday, Turchik said the claims are preempted by a collective bargaining agreement addressing overtime pay and compensatory time.

Turchik also refers to opinions by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals and the Arizona Court of Appeals that state "on-call time" for law enforcement officers is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Part of it has to do with how restricted they are. The mere fact that you may have to wear a pager is not enough," Turchik said.



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