U.S. envoy scorns Berlusconi in cables

Feb. 18, 2011 at 1:04 PM
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ROME, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli, in cables released Friday, described Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as a national embarrassment.

Spogli, who was envoy from 2005 to 2009, called the premier ''something of a clown'' who has ''damaged the image of the country in Europe and given a comic tone to Italy's reputation'' in cables disclosed by WikiLeaks and published by the Italian weekly L'Espresso.

Berlusconi has ''offended practically each group of the Italian public'' and is seen as ''putting his personal interests before those of the state,'' Spogli wrote.

The prime minister, who was indicted this week on charges involving sex with an underage prostitute, called Friday for urgent action on judicial reforms, including curbs on wiretaps, to protect people from trial by the press, ANSA reported.

Berlusconi has been trying for years to rein in prosecutors, with the aim of shielding himself, critics say.

A special Cabinet meeting will be called soon, sources told ANSA.

Justice Minister Angelino Alfano reportedly proposed preventing prosecutors from appealing acquittals and increasing the Justice Ministry's authority over them. Prosecutors are independent and can initiate investigations at their discretion.

The opposition Democratic Party said the government was out to intimidate magistrates.

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