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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 14:55 GMT
Nazi deportees speak to Di Canio
Italian football player Paolo di Canio
Di Canio's gesture is associated with fascist dictator Mussolini
Lazio footballer Paolo di Canio - punished in the past for giving a Nazi-style salute - has met Italians who survived the Nazi death camps.

"I've listened to the stories but I still have my ideas," the former West Ham and Charlton forward said later.

The meeting was set up by Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, who previously brought AS Roma players face-to-face with Holocaust survivors at Rome city hall.

Fans have paraded swastikas and other Nazi symbols at some Italian matches.

Fascist beliefs

The BBC's Christian Fraser, in Rome, says Di Canio has become the darling of the neo-fascist right.

On three occasions he has given a right-arm salute to the Lazio fans - which earned him a fine and a suspension from the Italian Football Association.

The salute was the trademark of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini before it was adopted by the Nazis.

Speaking after Thursday's meeting, Di Canio said: "My thoughts remain the same, but I don't want it to sound as if I believe in violence.

"I've spoken to Veltroni and told him that we must consider everything in the round and tell people of all the terrible stories that happened in World War II."

Racism condemned

He asked the Holocaust survivors to remember the innocent Italians killed by communists at the end of the war.

He added that "racism is a terrible thing and violence never solved anything".

Mayor Veltroni said that "on both occasions, first with Roma then with Lazio it has been a huge success, and this has helped bring together Italian football and the conscience of the community".

Di Canio makes no secret of his admiration for Mussolini: he carries tattoos of the dictator's self-ascribed title - "dux", which is Latin for Il Duce - on his right arm, and a fascist emblem on his back.

Lazio fans have a reputation as some of the most racist, right-wing fans in Italy.

Lazio's trainer has said he would be in favour of stopping games even for one minute if swastikas appear in the crowd.


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