Source AP ©

Bush cancels visit to Rome's picturesque Trastevere neighborhood

U.S. President George W. Bush has canceled a visit to Rome's picturesque Trastevere neighborhood Saturday for logistical and security reasons, officials said Friday.

Bush had been scheduled to visit the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, as well as to hold a round-table discussion with members of the lay Catholic organization Sant'Egidio Community at its nearby headquarters.

Instead, the Sant'Egidio meeting will take place at the U.S. Embassy, White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said.

Italian Interior Ministry officials said the reason for the switch was logistical. Bush has a busy schedule on Saturday and the stop in Trastevere would have taken extra time, they said.

Sant'Egidio spokesman Mario Marazziti said the relocation was for logistical as well as security reasons and would give the round-table participants more time to delve into important issues. Bush and Sant'Egidio are expected to discuss AIDS, Africa, and fighting poverty, among other topics.

Two demonstrations are planned during Bush's visit, and the U.S. Embassy on Friday issued a warning to Americans to avoid them or risk "becoming targets of opportunity."

One protest will be held at the central Piazza del Popolo, while another will pass through much of downtown Rome and end up at Piazza Navona, the picturesque piazza famed for its Bernini fountain.

The Trastevere stop had always been seen by some as a security risk since it is a neighborhood full of hard-to-monitor narrow streets and winding alleys. Earlier this week, however, the top government official in Rome, Achille Serra, had confirmed the visit, announcing that parking and private car traffic would be barred in the neighborhood until after the visit.