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Jewish leaders criticized Rome’s right-wing mayor for declaring that Italy’s Fascist-era anti-Semitic laws, not Fascism itself, constituted “absolute evil.”

Mayor Gianni Alemanno’s remark came in an interview published Sunday in Corriere della Sera newspaper while he was on a visit to Israel.

“Fascism was a more complex phenomenon,” Alemanno, who got his political start in the neo-Fascist movement, said. “Many people joined up in good faith and I don’t feel like labeling them with that definition. The racial laws desired under fascism, that spurred its political and cultural end, were absolute evil.”

Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini ruled Italy for two decades. Historians have estimated that thousands of Italian Jews were members of the Fascist party before the strict anti-Semitic racial laws were imposed in 1938.

Renzo Gattegna, head of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said the racial laws “were issued by the fascist regime, so it seems to me difficult to separate the two things.”

Rome’s Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici said, “We are awaiting a strong, public clarification.” He added, “I hope Alemanno was misinterpreted.”

A U.N. report reiterated a call for Israel to compensate Lebanon for damage from the 2006 war.

A report published last week by the office of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called “Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores,” commended Lebanon for its cleanup efforts along the Mediterranean coastline and urged Israel to help pay for them.

“The secretary-general wishes to urge the government of Israel to take the necessary actions towards assuming responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the government of Lebanon,” the report says, according to U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

The report cites World Bank data that estimated the environmental toll from the 2006 war at a minimum of $526.9 million and a maximum of $931.1 million.

This is not the first time the U.N. Secretariat has called on Israel to help pay for the war’s environmental costs.

The latest report will be made available to the U.N. General Assembly when it convenes in New York later this month.

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