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Security spares no stray dogs before NATO summit
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21:45, April 02, 2008

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Not only homeless people are being cleared from the streets in central Bucharest in the run-up to this week's NATO summit: stray dogs also have no escape from the tight security measures in place for the biggest international event Romania has ever hosted.

Infamous for its stray dogs, Bucharest has deployed special dogcatcher squads along the road from the airport to the Palace of the Parliament, the venue of the summit, to prevent the animals from harassing or biting delegates.

While there are no official figures for the number of stray dogs in the city, local media estimates the tally at between 30,000 and 200,000.

It is also known that as many as 9,000 people are bitten by dogs every year.

Local media quoted Simona Panaitescu, director of the city's administration for animal supervision, as saying that Bucharest used to catch around 1,500 dogs each month, of which 80 percent had to be put back on the streets.

There is no other way round the problem but to set up the special squads, she said, adding, "Because the shelters are full, we cannot capture the dogs."

The rest of the city is still suffering from a deteriorating canine occupation because of a January law prohibiting the city from euthanizing the dogs.

As for the homeless, Romanian authorities have sent away dozens of people living in the sewer system for the three-day NATO summit, which begins Wednesday.

"We evicted 37 persons out of the sewers along the route used by NATO delegations. The manhole covers were sealed," media quoted Christian Ciocan, spokesman for the Bucharest police, as saying.

"They were offered a hot bath, fresh clothes, a meal and a chance to stay overnight," he said, adding that most of the homeless refused shelter and were back on the streets again.

But the homeless had their own story, as one homeless young man told local television Realitatea TV that they were driven to an open field outside Bucharest.

"They took us out because some president George Bush is coming," he said. "They searched us, they took our glue," he said.

Hundreds of homeless people in Bucharest beg on the streets and sniff glue in underground passages.

Romanian authorities have mobilized thousands of police officers, security guards, fighter jets and snipers to protect the NATO summit from any kind of disturbance.

Aside from the 26 heads of governments and state of NATO members, Russian President Vladimir Putin will also participate in the summit, which is to discuss NATO enlargement and its role in strife-torn Afghanistan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, among others, have come to attend an international conference on peace and development efforts in Afghanistan.

High-level officials of international organizations, such as the European Union and World Bank, will take part in this conference as well.

Source: Xinhua

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