An Ethiopian official says the first portion of the ancient Axum obelisk will be returned home next week after being taken to Rome 70 years ago.

Ethiopian Culture Minister Teshome Toga told reporters Friday the first section of the obelisk is scheduled to be flown to Ethiopia next Wednesday. The roughly 24-meter high, 160 - metric ton granite structur, believed to be nearly 2,000- years-old, is too large to be moved in one piece.

The obelisk was taken from taken from the city of Axum in 1937 by order of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during Italy's brief occupation of Ethiopia.

The two nations signed an agreement for the return of the structure in 1947, but "technical difficulties" have delayed its delivery.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.