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Italy blocks Bannon's plans for right-wing political academy

COLLEPARDO, Italy (AP) — Italy's populist government is blocking plans by former White House adviser Steve Bannon to set up an academy for future populist leaders in a medieval monastery in the mountains outside of Rome.

On Friday, Italy's government said it was revoking the rights to the property, which were given to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a think-tank affiliated with Bannon. Among other problems, Italy's culture ministry said the institute has not paid concession fees and failed to do maintenance work on the monastery. The monastery is perched on a mountain near the town of Collepardo in Frosinone province southeast of Rome.

"It's not about political opinions but respect for the law," Gianluca Vacca, an undersecretary at the ministry, said about kicking the institute out of the monastery. "Thus proceeding with the revocation was a duty."

Benjamin Harnwell, the institute's founder, rejected the ministry's claims and said his think-tank will fight to stay in the monastery. He vowed his institute will contest the "illegitimate maneuver with every resource at its disposal no matter how many years it takes."

He claimed that politics was behind the decision to revoke the lease. Bannon is close to right-wing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has become Italy's most prominent politician after his anti-migrant party, the League, formed a coalition government last year with the populist, left-leaning 5-Star Movement. But the relationship between the two ruling parties has become rocky. A member of the 5-Star Movement runs Italy's culture ministry.

Plans to create the school for future populist leaders have been met by protests and local opposition. Opening the academy has been part of Bannon's plans to further spread his nationalist, populist ring-wing politics across Europe.

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