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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Italy army ends museum stand-off
Francesco Rutelli, Italy's Culture Minister
The move is a victory for Italy's Culture Minister, Francesco Rutelli
The Italian army is to leave rooms it has occupied in one of Rome's most prestigious museums, ending a dispute that had lingered for over 40 years.

The Armed Forces Officers' Club has used the rooms since the 1930s but its lease expired in 1965.

The sounds of chattering laughter from parties and music from social events could often be heard from the gallery.

The move will free up acres of gallery space to display artwork and pieces from the museum's burgeoning vaults.

The aristocratic owners of Palazzo Barberini, one of the city's most beautiful baroque Papal palaces, originally rented the rooms to the Italian army in the 1930s.

Long time leaving

When the state took over the building, now the National Gallery of Ancient Art, they ordered the officer's club to leave but they refused.

"I've been here for 25 years but they have been here longer than me," Franco Valenti, who manages the building, told the BBC news website.

"It's been tough. They are always having parties - weddings and christenings, especially at the weekends, and you can hear the music and the hullabaloo from the gallery downstairs," he said.

The gallery's collection includes masterpieces by Tintoretto and Caravaggio, displayed in grand rooms with vast windows and frescoed ceilings.

The departure of the club represents a victory for Italy's Culture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Francesco Rutelli.

One of Mr Rutelli's predecessors had compared getting the officers to leave to trying to get a man on the moon.

But now the Officer's Club, which has occupied the rooms despite several attempts to evict it, is finally going to go - by mid-December at the latest.

"They are not going far," Mr Valenti said, "They are just moving to another building across the gardens."

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