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Italian foreign minister quits

Ruggiero: Defended euro project against Cabinet europsceptics  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italy's Foreign Minister has resigned after a Cabinet level spat over Italy's role in the European Union.

Europhile Renato Ruggiero had publicly accused some fellow ministers in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government of being against the European Union.

Opposition parties seized on Ruggiero's comments and resignation to attack Berlusconi's government.

Berlusconi accepted his minister's resignation on Saturday after the pair had discussed the events of the last week.

In a heated week Ruggiero was quoted in a newspaper attacking Cabinet colleagues for belittling the euro currency project.

Ruggiero told the paper: "The differences of opinion aren't marked, they are very Marked."

Those comments forced Berlusconi to react in his own newspaper interview denying there was a rift and saying he was in charge.

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"There is no chance that his (Ruggiero's )comments will have political consequences." Berlusconi told La Repubblica.

On Saturday Berlusconi's office issued a statement: "The prime minister thanked minister Ruggiero most warmly for the work he carried out on behalf of the country, and above all for what he did when the government came into office to help its international image."

Ruggiero was a europhile who had endured a number of clashes with eurosceptic members of Berlusconi's coalition.

He also had friends -- or was at least respected -- by some opposition figures.

Piero Fassino, head of the largest opposition party, the Democrats of the Left said: "(His resignation) is a very severe blow to the prestige and credibility of Italy.

"We call on the prime minister to go to parliament at once and take stock of the most severe crisis that Italy has ever had regarding its relations with Europe."

Ruggiero's attack on Eurosceptic ministers came after three of them expressed doubts over the euro project.

Defence Minister Antonio Martino said "the euro experience could end in failure," Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti sneered at what he called "primates waving banners" and Reform Minister Umberto Bossi said he "couldn't care less about the euro."


• Berlusconi plays down euro rift
January 4, 2002
• Italy battles to accept euro
January 3, 2002

• Europa

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