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Berlusconi may accept U.S. aid

April 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM

ROME, April 7 (UPI) -- Italy would be open to accepting U.S. help following the L'Aquila earthquake, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday.

Berlusconi initially turned away offers of international help following Monday's deadly earthquake in the Abuzzo capital city and surrounding towns that killed at least 150 people, injured 1,500 and left tens of thousands of homeless.

Berlusconi said he had a "long phone call" with U.S. President Barack Obama while touring temporary tent cities set up to house those left homeless, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"If the United States wants to give a tangible sign of its solidarity with Italy, it could take on the responsibility of rebuilding heritage sites and churches," Berlusconi said. "We would be very happy to have this support."

Berlusconi said another possibility would be for the United States to help rebuild "a small district of a town or a suburb" so it could say, "This was done with our contribution."

Many historic buildings and churches in L'Aquila were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake, ANSA reported, including the apse of the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio and the cupola of the 17th-century Anime Sante church.

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