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"Italy to Return Looted African Obelisk"

Italy to Return Looted African Obelisk
trefwoorden: Ethiopia - 4th A.D. - obelisk
A daredevil flight might soon end a decades-long diplomatic dispute between Italy and Ethiopia over a looted obelisk.
Carrying 160-ton granite blocks, the plane would land on a small airstrip in Ethiopia, returning to its original country a 78-foot-high granite stele that now stands at the center of Rome's Piazza di Porta, near the Colosseum.
The monument is one of a group of six obelisks erected at Axum when Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th century A.D. It was stolen by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1937 and turned into a symbol of fascist power during his short-lived efforts to revive the grandeur of imperial Rome.
Despite signing various bilateral agreements promising to return the 1,700-year old monument, the Italian government showed no signs of doing so until the obelisk was badly damaged by lightning in a thunderstorm last year.
The thunderstorm smashed the top of the structure, causing stone pieces to crash to the ground.
"The restoration is over, we were able to reassemble the missing parts. The obelisk is back to its original look," Rome's archaeological superintendent Adriano La Regina told reporters.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Alfredo Mantica confirmed Italy's decision to finally return the monument.
"The obelisk will be cut in four pieces, including a heavy part of the monument which is now underground," Mantica said
Returning the obelisk would be no easy feat. When Mussolini took it to Italy, it was already in fragments. It was restored in Rome using metal rods embedded in concrete, making it very hard to disassemble.
"I very much hope that the Axum obelisk will soon be back on the site in Ethiopia where it was erected so long ago. The obelisks at Axum are wonderful monuments, not only to the levels of civilization in this part of Africa some 2,000 years ago, but also to the engineering skills that enabled such massive stones to be erected," Christopher Clapham of the Center of African Studies at Cambridge University, told Discovery News.
He added that the return of this obelisk was Italy's explicit obligation under the terms of the treaties that ended World War II.
"It should be a matter of deep shame and regret that the successive governments of Italy should have failed, over a period of nearly sixty years, to honor their own obligations, or to make restitution for the damage that Italian fascism did to Ethiopia," Clapham said.
According to Mantica, once the obelisk is disassembled, it will be put in a storage room as a flight back to Ethiopia is set up.
"Ethiopia's government required that the monument is transported by a plane, but there are only two kind of planes able to carry that weight. We wonder whether the airstrip will bear the obelisk's huge weight," Mantica said.
bron: Discovery Channel, 30 mei 2003