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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Rome obelisk prepares for journey home
Obelisk covered in scaffolding
The dismantling should be completed later this year
Italy has begun dismantling an ancient obelisk in preparation for its return to Ethiopia, following a 60-year dispute.

The Axum obelisk, which stands in central Rome, was named after the northern Ethiopian city from where it was looted by invading Italian troops in 1937.

Over the decades Addis Abba has appealed for the return of the 24-metre high granite monument.

The dismantling of the obelisk should be completed later this year ready for shipment to Ethiopia.

The decision to return the monument was taken in July last year at the request of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

It followed an emotional appeal by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during a visit to Rome.

His government had said it was prepared to do anything short of going to war to get it back.

Axum obelisk
Ethiopia has appealed many times for the return of the monument
The 2,000-year-old obelisk, which is carved with geometrical motifs, currently stands outside the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome.

There are concerns that it might disintegrate during the journey.

Last year, lightening damaged the top of the monument, and a chunk of stone broke off and smashed on to the ground.

Rome obelisk struck by lightning
28 May 02  |  Europe
UN urged to resolve Obelisk row
10 Jan 02  |  Africa
No return for Ethiopian treasure
22 Jun 01  |  Africa
Italy to keep Ethiopian monument
20 Jul 01  |  Africa

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