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GAETA, Italy — Military officials are advising Gaeta personnel to avoid some downtown areas Saturday during an anti-war protest.

The Rome-based Rifondazione Comunista — Communist Refoundation Party — said about 500 to 1,000 protesters are expected to participate in its demonstration, according to Gaeta police.

“We think it’s going to be a peaceful protest, but common sense would dictate if you don’t need to be out and about in those areas, then go ahead and avoid it,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ariel E. Tarrago, executive officer for Naval Support Activity Gaeta.

Demonstrators are protesting the possibility of war with Iraq and the U.S. and NATO military presence in Gaeta.

The rally is expected to begin at 3 p.m. near the Gaeta city hall and continue past the Italian central post office to the military port area, ending around 6 p.m. Sit-ins and open-microphone speeches are expected at those locations. Forty local police will escort the protesters, said Rosario Galizia, Gaeta command investigator.

Galizia said the last protest he remembered, involving about 70 people, was during the Kosovo conflict.

Tarrago said base officials will take extra precautions at the port and nearby Monte Orlando Facility, where about 125 people work. The USS La Salle, the 6th Fleet flagship normally docked at the port, is at sea.

All base facilities will be open during the protest times.

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