The Italian government denied a newspaper report Thursday that its secret services paid the Taliban thousands of dollars to keep an area in Afghanistan controlled by the Italians safe. Premier Silvio Berlusconi's office called the report in the Times of London "completely groundless." The defense minister said the paper published "rubbish." The Times reported that Italy had paid "tens of thousands of dollars" to Taliban commanders and warlords in the Surobi district, east of the capital, Kabul. The newspaper cites Western military officials, including high-ranking officers at NATO.