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Tuesday, July 28, 1998 Published at 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK

World: Europe

Pisa looks east for salvation

A Chinese engineer is on his way to Italy to help with with the leaning Tower of Pisa, as David Willey reports from Rome:

While work proceeds on a scheme to straighten the 800 year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa, using lead weights, a steel corset and excavations under the foundations, a new expert arrives on the scene in Italy tonight.

He is an engineer called Cao Shihzhong from Beijing and he has been invited by the Italian-Chinese Friendship Association.

A series of meetings have been arranged between Mr Cao and members of the committee in charge of the restoration of the ancient tower which was closed to the public eight years ago.

Mr Cao will face some severe scrutiny over his proposals.

He has already stated that, in his opinion, the methods being used to strengthen the tower are wrong, but no details are yet available of his proposed remedy.

Mr Cao is not alone in criticising the current engineering operation which is supposed to correct the lean of the tower, which has been increasing very slightly in recent decades, but has now stopped.

An organisation called Art Watch International recently said that repairs have damaged the marble structure and made it more unstable than before.

They also allege that disagreement among international experts has paralysed the work of the committee that is in charge of restoration.

Italy possesses the largest number of works of art in the world and the conservation of this huge patrimony of art and architecture is a heavy burden on the government which, however, spends less than one fifth of one per cent of its annual budget on art conservation and restoration.

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