Xi joins celebration of Italy's 150th anniversary of unification
Updated: 2011-06-03 08:02
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Vice-President Xi Jinping meets Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome on Wednesday. Xi was invited by the president to attend the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification. Ju Peng / Xinhua
Vice-president says he admires achievements of Italian people
ROME - Against a backdrop of blue skies and ancient architectural splendor, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano presided over an 80-minute parade on Thursday marking the 150th anniversary of the nation's unification.
Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping joined Italy's National Day celebrations along with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Vice-President Joe Biden, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other politicians from around the world.
The parade took place along Via dei Fori Imperiali - a spectacular avenue through the ancient Roman Forum leading to the Colosseum.
The parade was opened with five Italian flags representing the evolution of the national flag throughout its history. The flags were followed by 5,239 servicemen representing the armed forces, along with 460 civilians, 216 horses, 196 vehicles and nine aircraft.
For 80 minutes, 161 banners were paraded on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, paying homage to the history of Italy, President Napolitano and his foreign guests.
The parade was held amid tight security in Rome, with air space over the city closed for the parade, which also featured a fly-over by the air force aerobatic team and an array of military hardware from the early 20th century to the present day.
The roads and hills near the Colosseum were filled with veterans, visitors, children and their parents, joyfully waving national flags, singing the national anthem and chanting slogans.
"This is great, and I am very proud of my country's history," said Achille Riveli, a pensioner who had served for 40 years in the Italian air force.
Achille joined the crowd at 9 am, waiting for the start of the parade. "Economically now my country is in difficulty, but I think next year it will get better," he said, beaming with joy and pride when a massive flag was unfurled at the Colosseum.
For centuries Italy was divided into several states - some of them ruled or controlled by foreign powers, including Austria and Spain - before patriots moved to establish a united kingdom in 1861.
After the end of World War II, Italians voted in a referendum on June 2, 1946, to abolish the monarchy. The annual republic celebration is a public holiday for Italians.
"The Chinese people deeply understand the importance of unification and independence for a country," Vice-President Xi told Napolitano at their meeting on Wednesday.
"We wholeheartedly admire the achievements made by Italy during its unification and development process."
Xi's presence is one of the few occasions China has sent such a high-level leader to attend a National Day celebration in a foreign country.
The Italian side has attached great importance to Xi's four-day visit. Napolitano hosted a magnificent welcome ceremony in his presidential residence when Xi arrived on Wednesday.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is scheduled to host a luncheon for Xi on Friday after signing several cooperation agreements.
After attending the military parade, Xi took the opportunity to meet other leaders. Italian sources say he was due to sit next to US Vice-President Biden to ensure they has chance to communicate at the banquet hosted by the Italian president on Thursday night in the gardens of the Renaissance-era Quirinale presidential palace.
Xi was also expected to meet UN Secretary-General Ban and Russian President Medvedev on Thursday afternoon.
Xi will fly to Milan on Friday to speak with business leaders from the two countries and visit local biotech zone before departing for Cuba on Saturday.
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