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Berlusconi uses US trip to hit at home critics

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Berlusconi uses US trip to hit at home critics

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Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has come under criticism at home for a seemingly sudden conversion to pacifism, as he claims he repeatedly tried to persuade US President Bush not to invade Iraq.

It comes during a visit to America, six months ahead of elections in which he is struggling with a public opinion opposed to Italy’s involvement in the Iraq war. Berlusconi also says Washington wants him to win elections in April, although he added this doesn’t mean the US is interfering in Italy’s domestic affairs. He claims George W Bush fears a return to power for Italy’s left wing: “There was a declaration from Romano Prodi that the opposition would do the same as (Spanish prime minister) Mr Zapatero once elected, so all Mr Bush has to do is put one and one together,” said the Italian prime minister. Berlusconi is one of Washington’s strongest allies. Although he did not send troops to join the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, he did send some 3,000 forces after the fall of Baghdad. He has also rejected accusations at home that Italy’s intelligence agency passed off fake documents to Washington that claimed Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in the run-up to the war. “The data came, as the Bush administration and the CIA confirmed, from Great Britain, so I can confirm that no documents were given to the Americans, and that all the allegations over Nigergate are unfounded”.