Italy Celebrates 150 Years of Unification

Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Italy has celebrated its Republic Day and the 150th anniversary of its unification with parades, speeches, concerts and day-long festivities around the country.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano opened the central event Thursday morning in Rome, outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After greeting foreign dignitaries he watched a grand parade marching down the central Fori Imperiali street.

Military troops and various organizations participated in the parade, including a female contingent of Red Cross workers in white robes and folk groups dressed in traditional costumes.

Planes flew overhead producing red-white-and-green plumes of smoke ,forming a huge Italian national flag in the sky.

U.S. Vice-president Joseph Biden, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, Israel's Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas were among foreign dignitaries who joined Italians at the celebration in Rome.

The parade route was lined with people waving the Italian tricolor.

June 2nd is Italian national holiday, marking the day Italians voted in a 1946 referendum to make their nation a republic instead of kingdom.

The country also observes 150 years of its unification. In 1861 states along the Italian peninsula unified into one nation under King Victor Emanuel.

The Italian news agency Ansa said President Napolitano hosted 31 foreign heads of state and 80 visiting delegations. It says in addition to celebrations, the president attended a series of working meetings with visiting officials.

U. S. Vice President Biden held trilateral talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The talks were expected to focus on Libya.

Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to Naples Friday where he will address U.S. and NATO forces and their families.

From Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton extended best wishes to the people of Italy on their 65th Republic Day on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people.