Students cause chaos around Italy in cuts protest

Students in Rome protesting against the education reforms

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Italian student protesters have been causing major disruption in the capital, Rome, and other cities as MPs debate a bill on education reform.

Rome was brought to a virtual standstill by the Block Everything Day ahead of the vote on spending cuts and time limits on research.

Students argue the cuts breach their right to education.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's faltering government faces two confidence votes next month.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini has defended the reform, which is aimed at saving billions of euros over the next two years, and creating a more merit-based system.

Students blocked roads and central squares in Rome, and hundreds surrounded the Chamber of Deputies as riot police maintained a tight cordon.

Cars were unable to circulate around the city as other students blocked roads and major throughways.

Rubbish protest

Traffic was disrupted in other major cities, from Turin to Palermo, while students blocked the tracks at railway stations in Milan, Pisa and Venice.

In Naples, protesters took advantage of the rubbish collection crisis to throw the debris and rubbish bags lining the streets at the doors of the regional government office, AFP news agency reports.

Mr Berlusconi's government faces confidence votes in both the lower and upper houses of parliament on 14 December.

The prime minister says he is optimistic about winning the votes but he has been beset by defections from his coalition and allegations about his behaviour.

Recently the prime minister denied improper conduct in the case of a teenage nightclub dancer who was released from a police cell following his intervention.

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