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Italy hosts world leaders at national celebrations

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Italy hosts world leaders at national celebrations

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World leaders have been celebrating the birth of Italy as a modern nation. For Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the festivities were no doubt a welcome distraction from his legal and political difficulties.

For President Giorgio Napolitano, this was a chance to reflect on 150 years of history in the presence of an array of VIP guests gathered in Rome. Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev watched the military parade as did Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and American Vice President Joe Biden.

Some of those taking part in the parade may have raised an eyebrow or two with their exotic headgear and athleticism. But, in an Italy steeped in political scandal and struggling with a stagnant economy, a bit of pomp and ceremony marks a refreshing change.

National security was on display in the anniversary march, 65 years to the day since Italy became a Republic. As the lavish line-up showed, the country is keen to portray itself as a strong, unified state although its national sense of pride may not have been helped by recent headlines.