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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Ethiopia kept waiting for obelisk
Axum obelisk in Rome
The Axum obelisk has been in Rome for 68 years
The long-awaited return to Ethiopia of the third century Axum obelisk from Italy has again been delayed - this time "indefinitely".

The first piece was due on Wednesday but the Italian culture ministry says Axum airport does not have radar, so the pilots must wait for good weather.

Italy has promised to send back the artefact looted in 1937 but the return has already been put back twice.

The 160-tonne pillar has been broken into three pieces to ease transport.

"The return of the obelisk was delayed due to technical and logistical problems beyond our control and we therefore apologise to all those who had been invited to attend the arrival of the obelisk on 13 April," said Ethiopia's culture ministry.

No new date had been given for the arrival of the first piece of the 24 metre monument. The other two pieces had been due by the end of the month.

National celebration

The Italian government has agreed to pay to transport the obelisk by cargo plane to Ethiopia and reconstruct it at its original site in the northern town of Axum.

The Ethiopian authorities had been planning a national celebration to mark its return.

The monument has been a bone of contention between the two countries for decades, with the Ethiopian government accusing Rome of stalling over its return.

In 1947, Italy signed a pledge to the UN to give back the obelisk - seized by Italian troops under Italy's fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini - but has not followed through until now.

The obelisk will not return home entirely unscathed from its 68-year stay down the road from Rome's Coliseum.

As well as being cut into pieces, it has been damaged by pollution and a lightning strike in 2002.

Deadlock over Axum obelisk
14 Sep 04 |  Africa

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