ISTANBUL: Italy's soccer champions may want to stay home Wednesday. They're scheduled to travel to Istanbul for a European Cup clash with their Turkish counterparts -- but in light of the anti-Italian fervor sweeping Turkey's streets, Rome has advised its citizens to stay away. As if Turkey's freeing of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan weren't enough to inflame Turkish anger, on Monday the Italian prime minister told Turkey to make peace with the Kurdish separatists and accused it of "systematic violations of human rights." That won't raise the prospects for soccer diplomacy.
"For Turkey, this is the equivalent of some country giving political asylum to Al Capone," says TIME Istanbul correspondent James Wilde. "Ocalan has done terrible damage to the Turkish state. He's seen here as a killer of babies, and they can't understand why a European country would offer him sanctuary." Despite its outrage, it looks as if there's not much Turkey can do to put pressure on its third-largest trading partner. After all, countries with real leverage don't ask its citizens to visit the post office and send a nasty fax to Rome free of charge.