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Berlusconi Nazi row declared over

Berlusconi
Berlusconi's comments caused a rift between Italy and Germany.

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has expressed regret to the head of the European Parliament for comparing a German lawmaker with a Nazi concentration camp guard, a parliament spokesman said -- declaring the row over.

The spokesman said parliament president Pat Cox telephoned Berlusconi and considered the incident, which caused outrage at the start of Italy's six-month presidency of the European Union, to be closed in the light of the Italian leader's "clarification."

"During the course of the conversation, Mr. Berlusconi expressed his regret for having used ... certain expressions and comparisons which have hurt the sensitivities of some members of the European Parliament," spokesman David Harley said in a statement.

"He also stressed to President Cox his respect for the European Parliament as the seat of democratic legitimacy of the European Union and his desire to see the Parliament fully associated, through its representatives, in the Intergovernmental Conference.

"President Cox reiterated his wishes for a successful Presidency," the spokesman added.

The expression of "regret" -- Berlusconi has refused to make a full apology -- came on the day Italy moved to make amends after a government official branded Germans as "stereotyped blondes with a hyper-nationalist pride."

Those comments led Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to threaten to cancel his planned summer vacation in Italy. (Full story)

European leaders had expressed themselves "shocked" by Berlusconi's attack on a fellow member of the European Parliament during which he suggested German Socialist Martin Schulz should apply for a film role as a Nazi concentration camp commander.

It was the Italian premier's first speech to the parliament after his country took the rotating presidency on July 1.

Berlusconi had earlier expressed "regret" to Chancellor Schroeder personally in a telephone call last Thursday.

Berlusconi, however, insisted later that he did not apologize and that he was sorry that what was meant to be an "ironic joke" had been misunderstood.

He also insisted he had been offended by Schulz's pointed questions about recent Italian laws that the premier's critics say help him skirt his legal problems.


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