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Rome museum covers its nudes ahead of visit by Iran's Rohani

© Filippo Monteforte, AFP | Visitors walk past nudes at Rome's Capitoline Museum (Musei Capitolini) on January 26.

Video by Josephine MCKENNA

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-26

Italy covered up the classical nude sculptures at Rome's Capitoline Museum on the occasion of a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who met with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the museum on Monday.

Rohani and Renzi made speeches at the museum after a signing ceremony that saw Italian companies conclude €17 billion ($18 billion) worth of deals with the Islamic Republic.

A huge statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on a horse featured prominently in many of the photographs of the event.

But the Capitoline's nude statues, including a Venus dating from the 2nd century BC, had all been covered up by temporary white cartons to avoid the risk of offending Rohani – and to prevent the nudes from being seen in any of the photos of his first official visit to Europe.

But the diplomatic manoeuvre did not placate everyone.

"You cannot hide your culture, your religion or history itself. It was the wrong decision," said Giuliano Volpe, head of the Superior Council for Cultural Heritage at the Italian culture ministry, in comments to public broadcaster Rai3.

"We must ... respect [our] differences," he added.

The museum cover-up was not the only step Italy took to ensure the Iranian visit went smoothly.

Rohani refuses to attend official meals at which alcohol is available, so wine was strictly off the menu at both lunch with President Sergio Mattarella and a dinner with Renzi.

According to media reports, France has previously baulked at making a similar concession, leaving diplomats preparing for Rohani's visit to Paris starting on Wednesday with a major protocol headache.

Rohani has reportedly refused to dine at the Elysée presidential palace during his visit to Paris if wine is served.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-01-26

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