Benetton keeps controversial kissing ads
Rome - Italian clothing firm Benetton went ahead on Saturday with a controversial ad campaign featuring key world figures kissing each other, despite an outcry last week from the Vatican and the White House.
A photo-montage of an embrace between the Pope and a Muslim cleric was dropped after the Vatican threatened legal action but the rest of the campaign remains unchanged.
An image appearing to show US President Barack Obama smooching his Chinese opposite number Hu Jintao was published in Italy's biggest daily the Corriere della Sera on Saturday.
La Repubblica, Italy's other main daily paper, published a double page spread showing eurozone strongmen Nicolas Sarkzoy and Angela Merkel puckering up.
Last week the White House condemned the depiction of Obama, with spokesperson Eric Schultz saying it "disapproved of the use of the president's name and face for commercial purposes".
The campaign has also been slammed by Oliviero Toscani, the photographer who created Benetton's signature style of scandalous adverts, as "pathetic and the product of a beginner's art class".
After their launch in Paris on Wednesday by Benetton's vice president Alessandro Benetton, the images - which are accompanied by the slogan "Unhate" - were set to be displayed in all Benetton stores.
"These are symbolic images - with an ironic touch of hope and constructive provocation - to promote some thought about the way policies, faith and ideas, even if they are completely opposite and diverse, can lead to dialogue and mediation," said Benetton.