The body will respond directly to the Interior Ministry, and will be responsible for counselling the government on facilitating the integration of Muslims in Italy.

Its members will be representatives from Italy's Muslim community and academics appointed by the ministry, officials said on Saturday.

"They will express opinions, and formulate proposals on questions indicated by the ministry," Minister Giuseppe Pisanu was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Representatives of the Muslim community in Italy welcomed the proposals.

Italian Islam?

"It is a good start, in the hope that it will contribute to the objective of creating an Italian Islam," Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy, told ANSA.

Italy has been on a heightened state of alert since the July bombings on London's Underground.

A recent report by Italy's Executive Committee of Information and Security Services found that North African communities in northern Italy are likely to be targeted - mostly Tunisians and Moroccans living in the northern regions of Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.

The Italian government this summer approved reforms to fight terrorism, and this week it expelled two men of North African descent on charges that they posed a "danger" to public safety.