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Berlusconi Denies Apologizing to Schroeder for Disparaging Comment - 2003-07-04


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said today he did not apologize for comparing a German lawmaker to a Nazi concentration camp guard. He added that what he did say was that he was sorry his comments had been badly interpreted.

The Italian prime minister insisted Friday that he had not apologized to Germany for his comment to a German member of the European parliament that he would make a perfect Nazi guard in a film.

After hosting his first European Commission meeting in Rome, Mr. Berlusconi said that he had told German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in a telephone call Thursday night, that he was sorry that his Nazi "joke" had been misunderstood.

Mr. Berlusconi added that his comment had been ironic and badly interpreted. The Italian prime minister said he was sorry it had offended someone's sensitivity, but added that German lawmaker Martin Shultz had provoked him.

He said Mr. Shultz had seriously offended him and Italy with his comments that recent laws passed by the Italian parliament were aimed at keeping Mr. Berlusconi safe from his legal troubles.

The exchange between Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Shultz set off a diplomatic storm, just as Italy took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European union this week.