Italian politicians 'praise' fascist era of Benito Mussolini

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The combative right-wing mayor of Rome refused to condemn fascism as evil, while the country's defence minister paid homage to fascist troops who fought with the Nazis in resisting the Anglo-American landings of World War II.

The minister, Ignazio La Russa, was speaking at an event marking the 65th anniversary of Rome's resistance to Nazi occupation in 1943 and the role played by anti-fascist partisans.

But he also recalled the "Nembo" parachute division from Mussolini's fascist "Salo Republic" who fought alongside the Germans against the Allies.

"I would betray my conscience if I did not recall that other men in uniform, such as the Nembo from the Italian Social Republic army, also, from their point of view, fought in the belief they were defending their country," the minister said.

Hundreds of Italian soldiers and civilians died in September 1943, shortly after an armistice was signed between the Allies and Italy, attempting to stop the Germans from occupying Rome.

The inflammatory remarks, which were condemned by left-wing politicians, intensified a row over comments by Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, who said that while racial laws passed by Mussolini in 1938 were wrong, it would be too simplistic to condemn fascism as a whole, as an "absolute evil".

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