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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 13:49 GMT
Fini named Italy foreign minister
Gianfranco Fini
Gianfranco Fini has shaken off his party's neo-fascist roots
Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the National Alliance (AN), has been appointed foreign minister.

He replaces Franco Frattini, who is moving to Brussels as Italy's new European Commissioner.

Analysts say Mr Fini's promotion crowns a remarkable transformation for the head of a party that emerged from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.

Mr Fini has sought to transform the AN into a mainstream conservative party.

He formed the party in 1994, after the Italian Social Movement (MSI) - the heir to Benito Mussolini's fascists - split apart.

Higher goals

The National Alliance is the second-biggest partner in Prime Minister's Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition.

1952: Born in Bologna
1983: First elected to parliament
1987: Becomes leader of Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by Mussolini supporters
1994: Transforms MSI into National Alliance
1999: Visit to Auschwitz
2001: Appointed deputy prime minister
2004: Named foreign minister

Mr Fini, 52, once described Mussolini as the "greatest statesman of the 20th Century", but has long since retracted the statement and renounced fascist ideology, steering the National Alliance through a major image makeover so that it now sits comfortably inside the democratic mainstream right.

During a visit to Israel last year, he described Mussolini's rule as a "shameful chapter in the history of our people" - drawing fire from Mussolini's granddaughter Alessandra, who was a National Alliance MP at the time.

In Italy, he surprised politicians from all sides by proposing votes for immigrants.

The BBC's Tamsin Smith says Mr Berlusconi will continue to set the pace for Italian foreign policy, but the new foreign minister has already earned praise for his commitment to European and international affairs.

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09 Oct 02 |  Media reports
Post-fascist Fini takes EU job
24 Jan 02 |  Europe
Timeline: Italy
18 Nov 03 |  Country profiles

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