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Italian Prince Pleased With Prospect of Returning Home - 2002-02-06

Prince Vittorio Emanuele, the son of Italy's former king, says he is pleased by a vote in Italy's parliament that could pave the way for his return to Italy after 55 years. Since the end of World War II, male members of the House of Savoy have been banned from entering Italy because of their collaboration with the fascist regime.

Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his family were thankful and pleased with Tuesday evening's vote in the Italian Senate aimed at changing the constitution to allow male heirs of the House of Savoy to return to Italy.

The senators voted overwhelmingly - 235 votes out of a possible 269 - in favor of lifting the more than 50-year-old ban.

In an interview Wednesday with the Italian daily La Repubblica, Prince Vittorio Emanuele declared, "this is a moment I have been waiting for all my life. I love Italy very much and at last I will be able to see the country again."

When Italy became a republic after World War II, male heirs of the House of Savoy were accused of cooperating with Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and constitutionally banned from returning to the country.

Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his family have been living in Geneva, Switzerland. For years they have been urging Italian governments to amend the constitution to allow their return. They had even taken their case to the European Court in Strasbourg claiming their human rights were being violated.

When the center-right government of Silvio Berlusconi came to power last year, officials believed their request might finally be met. Just ahead of Tuesday's vote, Prime Minister Berlusconi said he saw no reason why male members of the House of Savoy should not be allowed back.

Resistance to the return of the royals had come mainly from Italian leftists. To ease that resistance, Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his son recently pledged allegiance to the Italian constitution, as many in the center-left had demanded. On Wednesday, the prince thanked leftists for their understanding and their votes in favor.

Although the bill to change the constitution will require a vote in the lower house and then needs to go back to both chambers in three months' time, lawmakers predicted that the former royals could return by the summer of this year. Prince Vittorio Emanuele said the first thing he will do when he returns will be to meet the president of the republic, then the prime minister and the pope.