updated 11/30/2006 12:22:54 PM ET 2006-11-30T17:22:54

Two Italian politicians called on Thursday for a Christmas boycott of Swedish furniture giant IKEA for not selling Nativity scenes, which Catholics in Italy traditionally put up in their homes around Christmas.

IKEA said it had never sold Nativity scenes — featuring figures of the baby Jesus in a crib, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, animals and Three Kings bearing gifts — because it is "not part of the Scandinavian tradition" its shops promote.

But conservatives senators Alfredo Mantovano of the National Alliance party and Gaetano Quagliariello of Forza Italia called on both Christian and atheists to boycott IKEA's 12 Italian stores in protest at what they called "anti-Catholic prejudice".

"In IKEA shops there is no lack of ethnic sculptures going back to animist religious traditions, and little Zen gardens, so their anti-religious prejudice seems to be anti-Catholic prejudice," they said in a joint statement.

IKEA Italy spokesman Valerio Di Bussolo said the company had "no prejudice against religion".

"We sell furniture and typical products from Scandinavia like meatballs and herring, and Christmas tree decorations which come from Northern Europe, rather than Nativity scenes which are more of a southern European tradition," he told Reuters.

IKEA, the world's largest furniture retailer, plans to open its 13th outlet in Italy next year. Its stores in the country had 35 million visitors in the year to August. It is not the only shop in Italy not to sell Nativity scenes. Department store chain Rinascente said some branches had stopped stocking them simply because they do not sell well.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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