A former Italian secret service general claims that the CIA gave its tacit approval to a series of bomb attacks in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.

In a newspaper interview, the general says the Americans wanted to keep the Italian Communist Party from taking power.

The CIA denies the allegations.

Gen. Gianadelio Maletti told La Repubblica the CIA did not have an active and direct role in the bombings, but the U.S. spy agency knew both the targets and the culprits.

There have long been allegations that the CIA and Italian secret services conspired to keep Italy's conservative Christian Democrats in power by fostering instability.

During the period from the 1960s until the 1980s Italy was home to a number of terrorist organizations, which carried out a number of attacks, killing dozens of people. Many of the cases remain unsolved.

Maletti said in his interview that in the 1970s the spy agency he headed discovered explosives were being sent from Germany to an Italian neo-Fascist paramilitary group. He said the discovery was reported to his superiors, but no action was taken.

He said explosives from that shipment had been used in a terrorist bomb that had killed 16 people in Milan.

Charges were laid against three members of the paramilitary group, but the case is still open.