Attending the Jerusalem Book Fair, the author of "The Name of the Rose" was asked whether he saw parallels between the embattled Italian leader and Arab rulers Hosni Mubarak or Moammar Gadhafi, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"Intellectually speaking, a comparison could be made with Hitler, who also rose to power with free elections," Eco said. "But Berlusconi is not a dictator like Mubarak or Gadhafi because he won the election with the support of a large majority of Italians. It's rather sad, but that's the way it is."
Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi responded, "It is distressing that a man of culture like Eco should make such a provocative comparison, offending the truth as well as the sensibilities of millions of Italians, and that he did it in Jerusalem."
Osvaldo Napoli, a parliament member from Berlusconi's party, said Eco had "managed to offend Italians, Israelis and Italy's Jewish community."
MP Maurizio Ronconi of the opposition Christian Democrats, said the famous writer had "made a fool of himself" and "lost his head."