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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007, 21:52 GMT
Colosseum lit over death penalty
Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum has long been used in death penalty protests
Rome has lit up the arches of the Colosseum to highlight Italy's support for a global ban on the death penalty.

Italy launched its campaign in the wake of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's execution, which sparked widespread protest among Italians.

Rome's mayor said the Colosseum, once a place of gladiatorial combat, was now a "symbol of peace and reconciliation".

Saddam Hussein was taunted at the gallows and mobile phone video of his last moments appeared on the internet.

Diplomatic drive

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Rome says since 1999 the Colosseum has been bathed in light every time a death sentence is commuted in the world or a country abolishes its death penalty.

However, this weekend it is lit in opposition to Saddam Hussein's death penalty and to the pending execution of his intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and former chief judge Awad al-Bandar.

Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni said: "The Colosseum originally was a place of persecution and unspeakable violence. But now it is a symbol of peace and reconciliation."

He said the lighting of the Colosseum would be a sign of encouragement for Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, which this week began a diplomatic push to have the issue taken up by the UN General Assembly.

Mr Prodi has said no crime can justify one person killing another.

Italy presented proposals for a moratorium on the death penalty at the UN assembly in 1994 and again in 1995.

Last July the Italian parliament approved a cross-party motion urging the government to table yet another moratorium proposal but this came to nothing because of disagreement among Italy's EU partners.

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