Italy to delay U.S. satellite station pending health study

ROME, March 11 (Reuters) - Italy will delay the installation of a new high-frequency U.S. military satellite station in Sicily pending the results of a study into the health and environmental impact, Prime Minister Mario Monti's office said on Monday.

The planned ground station is part of the so-called Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), a new ultra high-frequency military communications network that includes bases in Australia and the United States.

Monti and other government ministers met regional officials from Sicily on Monday to discuss local protests against the installation at Niscemi, near the Sigonella naval air base in the south of the island.

In a statement, the government said installation of satellite antennae at the site would be blocked until completion of an independent technical study into the possible impact from electromagnetic waves.

There has been widespread concern in Sicily over possible health effects from the system, generating protests that the government said risked compromising operations at Sigonella, a base used during the air war against Libya in 2011.

The centre-left regional government in Sicily, which operates in loose agreement with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of former comic Beppe Grillo, has demanded stronger guarantees that local health concerns would be addressed.

As well as the independent technical study, the government said it would set up systems to monitor the long-term health and environmental impact from the site.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Barry Moody/Mark Heinrich)