Gianni Alemanno, the new conservative mayor of Rome, says a controversial covering structure for a major ancient Roman monument should be torn down, but says he will allow Romans to decide for themselves in a referendum.

Alemanno, who won election with 53.7 per cent of the vote in a run-off election at the end of April, spelled out his policy priorities as he was sworn in as mayor. For the most part these involve law and order issues. But the mayor, an exponent of the far right Alleanza Nazionale party which is allied with the new prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, also called for the dismantling of a structure built by American architect Richard Meier to house the irreplaceable Ara Pacis or Peace Altar which goes back to the reign of the Emperor Augustus.

Meier, an internationally-acclaimed architect known for his rationalist designs and the use of the colour white, began work in 1995 on the new enclosure for the Ara Pacis, which also includes a museum and other exhibition spaces. It was immediately controversial because it is one of the few times a modernist work of architecture had been imposed on the historic centre of Rome and the first time since Benito Mussolini

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