Italy celebrates 150th anniversary of unification with world leaders

08:18, June 03, 2011      

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping watches a parade marking the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification in Rome, capital of Italy, June 2, 2011. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

By Eric J. Lyman

Italy officially celebrated its 150th anniversary as a unified state Thursday, with dozens of world leaders attending the ceremony rarely seen in recent years.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Russian President Dmitry Medvadev, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez were among the world leaders in Rome Thursday for a massive military parade that started in front of Rome's Coliseum and which included demonstrations of Italy's most advanced military hardware and several pass-overs from supersonic jets.

The June 2nd is actually the anniversary of the constitutional referendum that created the modern Italian republic in 1946. The actual date of Italian unification is March 17, 1861 150 years and six weeks ago when the Kingdom of Italy was formed. But that anniversary passed with relatively low profile celebrations this year, amid bickering between key members of Berlusconi's government.

The June 2nd national holiday, always a larger celebration in Italy, revealed none of the political infighting that has become more apparent in recent weeks.

Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League, the second largest political party in the ruling government coalition, was conspicuously silent Thursday only days after he predicted the local election results from Monday could hasten the end of his party's collaboration with Italian Premier Berlusconi's followers.

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