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AVIANO, Italy — The mayors of two towns in Italy with U.S. bases thought to house nuclear missiles have signed onto a petition calling for a global end to such weapons by 2020.

Stefano Del Cont, mayor of Aviano since June, said he and Anna Giulia Guarneri, the mayor of Ghedi, joined hundreds of other city leaders around the globe in seeking the ban. They’re all members of Mayors for Peace, an organization started in the 1980s by the mayor of Hiroshima — one of two Japanese cities hit by atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

Del Cont, who calls himself an independent on the moderate left, said he was “absolutely not” calling for Americans to pack up and leave Aviano. The Italian and American populations have been intertwined for decades, he said, and he doesn’t want to change that.

But he said in an interview Monday that he saw no justification for having nuclear weapons on base — especially with the end of the Cold War — and believed they should never be used.

Officials at Aviano have a long-standing policy of not saying if the base has such munitions.

“We cannot confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons,” Capt. Jennifer Ferrau, chief of public affairs for the 31st Fighter Wing, said Monday.

But numerous reports claim that Aviano and Ghedi each maintain dozens of nuclear warheads. A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council lists Aviano with 50 nuclear bombs and Ghedi with 40. It also lists such weapons at U.S. facilities in Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey.

“In many other places in Europe, they have been removed,” Del Cont said.

Asked if he’d be satisfied if his town could declare itself nuclear-free by 2020, he shook his head and said expectations must be kept high.

“You have to shoot for utopia,” he said. “Otherwise, your goals will not reach what you want.”

Asked if he’s broached the matter with the base’s American commander, Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, Del Cont said the two men have a very good relationship. And such a request wouldn’t be helpful, he said.

“I’d get a ‘No comment,’” he said.

Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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