Berlusconi regrets jibe

Under fire, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday finally apologised to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for any "misunderstanding" over a Nazi jibe he had made at a German lawmaker.

    Berlusconi reacts cheekily
    to EU members' criticism

    Hours after the German Chancellor expressed outrage and demanded a full apology, Berlusconi spoke to him by phone and tendered his apology.


    But in a statement later, the beleaguered Italian Prime Minister added he had been seriously offended by criticism levelled against him in the European Parliament on Wednesday.


    The German Chancellor, however at the end of the phone conversation with Berlusconi, said he considered the row over.


    In a speech earlier during the day in the German Parliament, Schroeder insisted that Berlusconi's comparision of a German lawmaker with that of  a Nazi concentration camp commander, was inappropriate and unacceptable.


    "This comparision is inappropriate and completely unacceptable in content and form," the German Chancellor said.


    "I expect the Italian Prime Minister will apologize fully for this unacceptable comparision," Schroeder said to loud applause.


    Berlusconi had sparked widespread consternation on Wednesday when at the European Parliament, he likened a German lawmaker with a Nazi concentration camp commander.


    Taken aback by the uproar that followed, Berlusconi had sought to smoothen feathers by conveying his apology to the German people in a meeting with members of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) at the European Parliament.


    "I am sorry if I have offended the historical feelings of the German people," Berlusconi was quoted by the EPP members as saying.


    But Berlusconi refused to tender a personal apology to Martin Schulz, the German Socialist member of parliament, whom he likened to the Nazi commander.


    Angry Berlusconi


    Having taken over the European Union presidency for six-months on Tuesday, Berlusconi had lost his cool in the European Parliament early in the day on Wednesday.


    Responding to criticism of an alleged conflict of interest between his political office and his extensive Italian media interests by German Socialist MEP (Member of Parliament) Martin Schulz, Berlusconi snapped back.


    "Mr Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of leader. You'd be perfect," Berlusconi exclaimed to jeers in the chamber.


    A noisy protest by 15 Green members in the European Parliament seemed to have prompted Berlusconi to lose his composure. 


    About 15 Green members held up placards in Italian declaring "La legge e uguale per tutti" (The law is equal for all) and "No godfathers," referrring to the immunity that the Italian Prime Minister had secured for himself against corruption cases. 


    Berlusconi who had been on trial for allegedly bribing judges over a 1980s business deal, recently rushed a law through parliament granting himself and other top state officials immunity from prosecution while in office.


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