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Bomb fears halt Greek mail service

Greece has halted outgoing airmail and screened thousands of packages in an attempt to stop a series of bombings targeting diplomats and European leaders.

A 48-hour ban on all deliveries abroad took effect after mail bombs reached the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and halted flights for hours at Italy's Bologna airport, where a package addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi caught fire.

Greece and Germany said they supported a Europe-wide tightening of package-screening procedures.

The device found in Berlin appeared identical to those in Greece, and seemed to contain a gunpowder-like substance.

Germany will now ask the Belgian EU presidency to put air-cargo security on the agenda of next week's regular meeting of interior ministers.

The attacks, which followed the unsuccessful Yemen-based ink bomb plot, highlighted the difficulty of keeping devices out of the international delivery system.

Several European governments urged vigilance but did not say they were increasing measures already in place at leaders' offices.

At least 13 bombs were detected sent from Athens on Monday and Tuesday - one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and eight to the Athens embassies of Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Chile, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Three of the bombs exploded or caught fire in Athens, causing minor damage.

Police said none contained lethal amounts of explosives - unlike those used by the Yemeni militants.

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