Italy covers nude sculptures for Iranian president

By Shawn Price   |   Jan. 27, 2016 at 3:58 AM
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ROME, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Nude statues at Rome's Capitoline Museum were covered during Tuesday's visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to avoid offending him.

Rouhani met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the museum after the Iranian president signed multiple business deals with Italian companies. The deals were estimated to be worth about $18.4 billion.

The deals came in the first weeks after the Iranian nuclear deal went into effect, lifting years of economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation. Rouhani was in Italy on a five-day tour of Europe to build better relations between the often isolated Islamic republic and European countries.

Rouhani stressed his country's economic growth would fight extremism, because "unemployment creates soldiers for terrorists."

But Italian politicians and the public were outraged as much by the covered statues as Renzi's unwillingness to press Rouhani on Iran's human rights abuses and sponsoring of militant groups. Protesters marched outside the museum and politicians declared Renzi "surrendered" their country's cultural identity by covering the art.

Renzi's government also chose not to serve wine during the official meal because Iran has strict laws against consuming alcohol.

The Iranian president will next visit France, where wine will be served.

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