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Berlusconi's friends challenge ally over criticism

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Berlusconi's friends challenge ally over criticism


Silvio Berlusconi’s main political ally has been called upon to explain comments he made criticising the Italian prime minister.

“Fini wants to finish Berlusconi” is the headline in Il Giornale, a paper run by the premier’s family. It refers to remarks made a month ago by Gianfanco Fini of the National Alliance. Once Berlusconi’s foreign minister and seen as a modern day fascist, he is now considered a moderate. The comments were made in a private conversation at a meeting that Fini did not realise was being recorded. He said the premier behaved like an “absolute monarch” and described allegations that Berlusconi had Mafia connections as being like an “atom bomb”. Berlusconi supporters are asking whose side Fini is on. Claudio Scajola, Minister for Economic Development, said: “If his off-camera words show something, they show a clear line and action wich is different from that of the governing People of Freedom party.” Berlusconi has threatened to sue opposition papers which have talked of alleged mafia links. Fini says he does not believe the claims, but argues the prime minister should do more to respect parliament and the judiciary. The opposition has turned its fire on the government. Pierluigi Bersani, Democrat Party leader, said: “The centre-right is in chaos – all this would be trivial if it did not coincide with the fact that the government is doing nothing to help the economy.” The prime minister claims he has been hounded by biased magistrates. Recently he was stripped of immunity from prosecution and faces renewed corruption cases. The latest row has confirmed many people’s impression that Gianfranco Fini has become more like an opposition leader than a Berlusconi supporter.

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