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By ESPN Staff

Germany reassure US on World Cup security

BERLIN, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Germany has reassured the United States it has detailed plans in place to protect next year's soccer World Cup against the threat of a terrorist attack, a security expert at the interior ministry said on Friday.

While contacts with European nations have focused frequently on the risk of hooliganism, the United States had another topic in mind when it sent a team of security officials to talks in Berlin last month.

'For the United States, the focus is terrorism. When the Americans have questions about the security preparations in Germany, then terrorism is the main area,' said the ministry expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the Americans, including counter-terrorism experts and staff from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were impressed by the preparations and keen to work more closely, including sending specialists over to Germany.

The Germans, while looking to work with foreign partners, are also keen to stress they are well on top of the security situation.

'We are very well-positioned, including in the field of terrorism and counter-terrorism,' the German official said.

The job of protecting the American players will be shared between at least four of Germany's 16 federal states, as the Hamburg-based U.S. team takes on the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen, Italy in Kaiserslautern and Ghana in Nuremberg.

With less than six months until the tournament kicks off on June 9, some 40 countries have already begun feeding information to the World Cup unit at the Berlin interior ministry, as the vast security planning operation moves into higher gear.

Much of the data relates to the number of foreign fans expected to travel to Germany. At this stage, there is no intelligence on any concrete militant threat to the World Cup, the ministry expert said.

But the German hosts are well aware that one of the biggest events in sport presents a potential terrorist target.

At the back of their minds is the nightmare of the 1972 Olympics in Munich, when Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis at the Olympic Village and took nine hostage. The hostages, five gunmen and a policemen were killed during a failed rescue attempt.

'Experts say that terrorists do not exploit events like the World Cup. But this is nothing we can count on. The terrible experience of the Munich Olympic Games makes us especially sensitive,' Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.