Berlusconi battling personal issues on G8 sidelines | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.07.2009
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Berlusconi battling personal issues on G8 sidelines

A host of personal scandals dogging Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi threatens to undermine his credibility as the host of the G8 summit in L'Aquila from July 8-10.

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi accuses the media and courts of "subversion"

The gaffe-prone prime minister is no stranger to bad press, but lately, reports in the Italian media about his divorce, womanizing and hedonistic lifestyle have been threatening to overshadow his leadership of the G8 summit.

In Italy, discussion of Berlusconi's alleged involvement with callgirls and friendship with a teenage model has been so intense that the country's head of state was moved to issue a plea to the country's politicians and journalists not to embarrass Italy during the high-profile summit.

In this photo taken on Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 18-year-old Noemi Letizia poses with a portrait of Silvio Berlusconi in her home in Naples, Italy

Berlusconi has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with 18-year-old Noemi Letizia

"Given the sensitivity of this international event, it would be quite right to call a truce in the controversies between now and the G8," Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said on Monday.

Although Berlusconi was swift to endorse Napolitano's suggestion, he also vehemently denied that the scandals were damaging his government, which he described as "the most stable and secure in the entire West."

However, one newspaper poll on the weekend showed that support for the flamboyant Berlusconi was slipping, with the biggest drop among women and practising Catholics - voters likely to disapprove of sexism and philandering.

Catholic groups upset over aid

Catholic organizations have been among the most vocal of Berlusconi's critics, but not because of a sense of moral outrage. Rather, they're attacking Berlusconi for failing to make good on Italy's promises to developing nations.

In an opinion piece written for Britain's Times Online, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development's head of policy, Joanne Green, said that Berlusconi should not be leading the G8.

"The G8's agenda has Africa and development firmly at its center, but Mr. Berlusconi has failed to keep his aid promises," Green wrote. "His moral failings in the treatment of the world's poor rather than his poolside parties mean that his place at the top table deserves to be threatened."

And the Catholic charity Caritas International has accused Italy of slashing aid to poor countries by 56 percent this year, saying: "This is not a good sign for the G8 summit in Italy."

Meanwhile, the sleaze allegations surrounding the Italian prime minister show no sign of going away. Recently, prosecutors in Bari, southern Italy, were reported as saying that he could be summoned as a witness in their investigation of a local businessman at the center of a scandal involving women who were allegedly paid to attend parties hosted by Berlusconi.

dc/rm/rtre/ap

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