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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 22:49 GMT
Italian mayors stand firm on flags
Rainbow-coloured flags displayed in support of peace demonstrations on 15 Feb, 2003
Anti-war protests are to take place on Saturday
Italian mayors have refused to remove rainbow-coloured peace flags displayed on dozens of city and town halls despite a government warning that the initiative is a criminal offence.

This flag is a reference to a value which I think is important for the majority of Italian citizens

Leonardo Dominic Florence Mayor

The first peace flags started appearing on several local administration buildings a few days ago in support of the peace demonstrations expected to take place on Saturday.

The office of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immediately issued a warning saying that flying such flags on public buildings was a crime known as "vilification of the flag".

But the mayors of Rome, Florence and other municipalities ruled by the centre-left opposition are determined not to surrender.

Expressing opinions

"This flag is a reference to a value which I think is important for the majority of Italian citizens, at this moment," said Florence Mayor Leonardo Dominici, who was among the first to hang a peace flag out of his office's window.

Displaying the flag has acquired a polemic nuance against the foreign policy of the United States and other countries, including Italy

Gabriele Albertini - Milan Mayor

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni agreed. "Nobody should be worried about displaying peace flags, whatever your political beliefs," he said.

"They only express the wish that war may be avoided."

The note issued by the Italian government underscored that, according to a 1998 law, only Italian national, regional and communal flags can be displayed on public buildings along with the EU flag.

Flags of foreign states can also be waved on particular occasions, such as state visits, but the flags of movements and associations, which are labelled "private symbols", are banned from public buildings.

Displaying them next to the Italian flag is a crime.

'Against America'

Milan's centre-right mayor, Gabriele Albertini, disagrees with the initiative in accordance with the vast majority of the ruling coalition:

"We would like to avoid war, but displaying the flag has acquired a polemic nuance against the foreign policy of the United States and other countries, including Italy," he said.

Meanwhile in Florence, the central offices of Forza Italia, the party founded by Prime Minister Berlusconi, has hoisted the US flag in retaliation against the mayors' initiative.

Over the last few days, some 300,00 rainbow flags have been sold across Italy, and many outlets have reportedly run out of stock.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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See also:

05 Feb 03 | Europe
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
11 Feb 03 | Europe
29 Jan 03 | Europe
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