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Diplomatic Incident Over Italian PM's  Remarks is 'Closed,' says German Chancellor - 2003-07-03

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says his comments comparing a German politician to a Nazi guard were misinterpreted. In a telephone call to the German Chancellor Mr. Berlusconi expressed regret over his words.

Following a phone conversation with Mr. Berlusconi, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, declared that for him "the incident was closed."

Mr. Schroeder had earlier demanded an apology from the Italian prime minister after he triggered an uproar in the European parliament when he suggested that the German member of the European parliament, Martin Schulz, would be perfectly cast as a Nazi concentration camp guard in a forthcoming film.

"I know there is a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps," Mr. Berlusconi exclaimed. "I shall put you forward for the role of kapo, you would be perfect."

The incident prompted an extraordinary diplomatic row between two of the European Union's biggest countries, which overshadowed the start of Italy's six-month presidency.

The Italian leader described his remarks as an ironic joke, which the translators had failed to convey. Mr. Berlusconi told Mr. Schroeder he had been gravely offended.

The Italian prime minister had responded to what he considered a personal attack by the German politician who criticized him for the alleged conflict of interest between his political role and his extensive media empire.