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Veltroni, head of new centre-left party, to quit as Rome mayor

Walter Veltroni, the head of Italy's new centre-left Democratic Party, was to step down yesterday as the mayor of Rome ahead of national general elections in April, his office said.
Ending what he called "seven years of wonderful work, one of the most beautiful human experiences that I've ever had," Veltroni, 52, will hand in his resignation at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT).
The popular centre-left flagbearer will take on conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi in the April 13-14 vote, set after the collapse of centre-left prime minister Romano Prodi's government last month.
In a break with a long-standing tradition in Italy of forming wide-ranging coalitions to win elections, Veltroni has vowed that the Democratic Party, the largest formation on the left, will run alone in April.
Veltroni was first elected mayor of Rome in 2001, and won re-election by a landslide in 2006.
In October last year, he easily won an American-style primary to head the Democratic Party, born of the fusion of the former communist Democrats of the Left and the Catholic centrist Daisy party.
Veltroni, a cinema buff who created the RomeFilmFest in 2006 and a one-time journalist, shed communist roots to become a social democrat.
Italian law prohibits the mayor of a city of more than 20,000 people from standing in legislative elections.