Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s latest visit to Washington is likely to be a difficult one following controversial claims he made ahead of the trip. In an interview on an Italian TV channel, he said that in the run-up to the war in Iraq he had repeatedly urged President George W Bush not to launch an invasion.
Adding to the controversy are media reports that Italy’s intelligence service passed off fake documents which bolstered Washington’s argument that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. The two leaders declined to take questions from journalists after Berlusconi’s arrival at the White House. The Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, claims the Italian secret service SISMI was the source of forged letters that tried to show that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy 500 tonnes of uranium from officials in Niger. The correspondence was written on official paper stolen from Niger’s embassy in Rome on New Year’s Eve, 2000. Responding to the claims in La Repubblica, Silvio Berlusconi’s office denied any involvement of the government or SISMI in fabricating or transmitting the documents. A long inquiry by the FBI on the forgeries is yet to reach a conclusion.