President meets the Fascists and the Pope

President Clinton and the Italians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Allies' liberation of Rome with ringing phrases about freedom from dictatorship, dedication to democracy and 'never again' to totalitarianism which vibrated with piquant meaning.

For the President was visiting the first country in Europe where the political heirs of the dictatorships responsible for the last war - in this case the Fascists - are in government, to the horror of their neighbours and the special alarm of countries with growing right-wing extremist parties of their own.

Contact between the President and the neo-Fascists could not be entirely avoided: the 110 guests at a dinner to be given by the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, last night included Gianfranco Fini, head of the neo-Fascist-led National Alliance (AN) who, for all his efforts to give the party respectability, has never expressly repudiated Fascism. There was also to be Giuseppe Tatarella, the AN's deputy prime minister.

Mr Berlusconi had sought to defuse objections to their presence by inviting Achille Occhetto, leader of the former Communist PDS, the main opposition party.

The President stood on the Capitol Hill - the Campidoglio - once the centre of the ancient world, and told Romans he had come to celebrate 'the crusade to restore liberty to this country . . . to give Rome back to its people'. He reminded them that freedom and democracy had enabled them to transform Italy 'into one of the world's great economies' and to stand up to Soviet expansionism. 'I am sure that Italy will pursue democracy with virtue and grace,' he said encouragingly.'

Questioned by the press about Italy's neo-Fascist minister, he said Mr Berlusconi had told him his government was committed 'top to bottom' to democracy. Also, in many other countries - he named Poland and Argentina - 'there are many political parties which have their roots in a less democratic past. And I have found it not only useful; but the only reasonable approach, to judge all people in governments today by . . . what they say and what they do when they are in power.'

Mr Berlusconi, for whom this was the first big meeting with a world leader since he took office, insisted 'this is a false problem. It has nothing to do with reality'. The latest survey said the media tycoon whose meteoric political rise was based partly on a shrewd use of opinion poll results, showed that only 0.4 per cent of Italians hanker for Fascism. 'In Italy there is no such thing as nostalgia for a period that we consider to be completely buried in the past, that has been condemned by history.'

He expressed gratitude to the President for 'what the United States, together with the Allies, did 50 years ago . . . this reconstructed Italy would not exist without the sacrifice of many young American lives.'

The President raised what is likely to be a principle theme throughout his journey: 'let us expand our blessings across a wider Europe' to encompass Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. And, being the first American President to be born after the war, he urged that it should be said 'in 50 years from now that the children of freedom and democracy were the builders of a lasting peace.'

That morning, in the centre of Catholic Rome, the Vatican, the President and a pale, haggard- looking Pope, still recovering from a hip replacement operation, aired their deep differences about contraception and world population control. These have come to a head over the UN conference on population and development in Cairo in September, where the Pontiff is campaigning to have the questions of contraception and abortion dropped, and the President has been resisting his appeals.

Mr Clinton is said to have stood his ground on contraception, but said he thought they could come closer on the 'larger issue', a 'policy of sustainable development which leads to improved roles for women and stabilisation of population'. He stressed, for the Pope's benefit, that the 'central role of the family' should not be undermined and the US does not and will not support abortion as a means of population control.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine