The Week Ahead: Italy stirs in memory of liberation

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ITALIANS mark the 49th anniversary of their liberation from fascism today amid fears that neo-Fascists are roaring back. For the past 49 years the celebrations have been uncontroversial, but this time the National Alliance, part of the Freedom Alliance, which swept to power in last month's elections, is urging reconciliation between those defeated in 1945 and those who won.

Leaders on the far right want to celebrate the memory of the Blackshirts, as part of an increasingly vocal campaign to rehabilitate Mussolini, especially among the young, who have no memory of his rule. Gianfranco Fini, head of the National Alliance, called for today to be 'the first day of a year of reconciliation' in a country that should be a 'republic without resistance'.

But many Italians worry that the anti-Fascist insurrection is being rewritten as an even-handed civil war, and the left-wing daily Il Manifesto has called for a huge anti-fascist demonstration in Milan today. Some 200,000 people are expected to turn out and police fear the possibility of violence.

European Union agriculture ministers meet in Luxembourg today and tomorrow for some haggling over Germany's demand for tougher European curbs on imports of cattle, beef and veal from Britain because of the link with BSE or 'mad-cow' disease.

Other EU states back Britain in resisting the demands, saying there is no evidence that mad-cow disease can be transferred to humans. But the Germans are poised to slap sanctions on British beef imports, whether or not the rest of the EU approve.

President Bill Clinton meets American Indian and Alaskan tribal leaders at the White House on Friday, the first meeting of all 545 federally recognised tribal leaders and a sitting president.

He sees it as a chance for 'affirming our commitment to strengthening the nation-to- nation relationship we have with tribal governments and ensuring American Indian sovereignty'.

The Rev John Hanlon appears in a court in Massachusetts today for sentencing. He was convicted last month of raping altar-boys and committed to hospital for 40 days for his 'proclivity for paedophilia'.

It is Saddam Hussein's birthday on Thursday, and contributing to the Iraqi leader's festivities will be Russia's extreme nationalist leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who plans to make 'a real holiday' out of the event, complete with soccer team and folk group.

Chinese medicine shops in Hong Kong have until Friday to dispose of all stocks con taining tiger products, which the government has banned. The ban brings Hong Kong in line with rules laid down by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Nearly all the territory's Chinese medicine shops have been inspected by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, in the course of which inspectors seized 175 pieces of tiger penis, six paws and more than 7kg of tiger bone.

The ban will no doubt by welcomed in the Swiss resort of St Gallen, where the Inter national Cat Show is held from Friday until Sunday.

And if the yowling of the assembled felines should get on your nerves, you could nip across country to Boltigen on Saturday and Sunday for the Yodelling Convention.