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Benetton kiss adverts appear in Italian papers - minus the Pope

Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Italian fashion company Benetton has launched its latest shock-tactics advertising campaign with photomontages of Barack Obama kissing China’s Hu Jintao and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy in a clinch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel published in Italian newspapers Saturday.

The image that attracted the most publicity – Pope Benedict XVI kissing the imam of Cairo’s authoritative Al Azhar mosque, Ahmed el Tayyeb – has been dropped after threats of legal action by the Vatican and protests by Catholics and Muslims.

But the country’s leading newspapers, Il Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, carried Benetton advertisements featuring the political leaders.

The White House on Thursday objected to the use of the American president’s photograph for commercial purposes.

Benetton claims that its campaign, run under the slogan “Unhate” and first made public in Paris on Wednesday, is a way of advocating “tolerating the differences in another” and will encourage dialogue and mediation.

Another of the digitally altered images shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.