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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 10:31 GMT
Funeral held for killed Italian aide
Tens of thousands gathered in Bologna to show their respects
Italians turned out after Mr Biagi's death to show their respects
A private funeral service has been held in the Italian city of Bologna for Marco Biagi, a senior government aide assassinated in an attack by gunmen suspected of belonging to the ultra-left Red Brigades.

Marco Biagi
Marco Biagi wanted dramatic changes to the workers' statute
The Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, parliamentary leaders and union representatives joined Mr Biagi's family at Bologna's Saint Martin church early on Friday for a service commemorating the 51-year-old economist.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had wanted to give Mr Biagi a state funeral, did not attend. The proposal had been declined by the family.

The archbishop of Bologna, Giacomo Biffi, presided over the services. Mr Biagi was to be buried later in the day in a private ceremony.

Credible confession

Mr Biagi, who had helped draw up the controversial labour reforms proposed by the right-wing government of Mr Berlusconi, was shot and killed outside his Bologna home on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Red Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on the internet, which police said they were treating as credible.

The 26-page document, posted on the Caserta24ore website, said Mr Biagi had been killed for his involvement in the labour reforms, which the group described as the "regulation of the exploitation of salaried workers".

The authors said the group was waging war on "bourgeois capitalism", and praised the perpetrators of the attacks on the United States on 11 September.

This killing was the first sign of the return of the group, most of whose leaders were caught and sentenced to long prison terms after a wave of attacks and kidnapping in the 1970s and early 1980s.

It has raised fears that Italy could see a resurgence of such political violence.

Preparing to protest

Mr Berlusconi has said he will not allow the murder to scupper his controversial plans to make it easier to hire and fire Italian workers.

The proposals have been fiercely resisted by the unions, who made clear after the killing that they would still press ahead with a general strike next month.

More than one million people are expected in Rome on Saturday for a mass demonstration against Mr Berlusconi's social policies.

Correspondents say it could feasibly be the largest political demonstration in a decade.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"Witnesses spoke of two gunmen"
The BBC's David Willey
"The Red Brigades have been dormant for years"
Angelo Gennari of Italy's 2nd biggest union the CISL
"We say lets agree and discuss together"
See also:

21 Mar 02 | Europe
Tragedy of a death foretold
20 Mar 02 | Europe
Ghosts return to haunt Italy
03 Mar 02 | Europe
Italy's left confronts Berlusconi
03 Jun 00 | Europe
Red Brigades fugitive arrested
13 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Italy
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