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The Italian parliament has passed a law committing Italy to providing long-term financial support for both the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the InterAcademy Panel (IAP) — providing that the two institutions remain based in the country.

Under the new law, which has been under negotiation for more than five years, the government will provide about US$2 million a year to TWAS.

The academy was set up in 1983 as an offshoot of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), which is based in the northern Italian town of Trieste. It seeks to promote scientific capacity and excellence in the South, and currently has more than 600 fellows and associate fellows.

A further US$1 million a year will be provided towards the running costs of the IAP, an organisation that brings together more than 90 scientific academies around the world, and whose secretariat has also been based in Trieste since 2000.

"This is fantastic news for us," says Mohamed Hassan, the executive director of TWAS. "It means a tripling in support for the basic running costs of TWAS, and what is important for us is that this new funding is going to be maintained."

"It is really a turning point for both TWAS and the IAP. It means that we will no longer have to go to the parliament every year to argue for continued support, and gives us some long-term security that we can use to plan for the future."

TWAS was founded by a group of scientists from the South under the leadership of the late Nobel laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan, at the time director of the ICTP.

Since its inception, the organisation's operational expenses have largely been covered by the Italian government through its department of foreign affairs.

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