Berlusconi scornful of 'parties' claim


CENTRAL EUROPE:and ITALIAN PRIME minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied that he regularly hosts “wild parties”, as claimed by US diplomatic cables leaked on Sunday by the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.

Mr Berlusconi said yesterday in Tripoli, Libya, on the sidelines of a European Union-Africa summit: “I don’t frequent these so-called ‘wild parties’ and I don’t even know what they are.”

Sources close to the prime minister claimed he had laughed when told of the WikiLeaks content, while in Tripoli he described the leaks as the “revelations of third- or fourth-level functionaries”.

Nonetheless, the cables, many of which are attributed to Elizabeth Dibble, chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Rome, present a less-than-flattering picture of the 74-year-old prime minister.

The cables also point the finger at Mr Berlusconi’s relationship with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, implying the two men may be involved in business affairs together and that Mr Berlusconi “is increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for Putin”.

For US diplomats in Berlin, German chancellor Angela Merkel appears to have inherited the political “Teflon” label from Bertie Ahern, according to the leaked documents.

Through gritted teeth, German officials insisted yesterday that it was business as usual with the US despite the controversy.

“We regret the publication but the effect on bilateral relations will, at worst, be very low,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Behind the scenes, officials admitted it was a “huge embarrassment” to read in Der Spiegelmagazine the unflattering US thumbnail sketches of Germany’s prominent politicians. The image of Germany’s political leaders to emerge from the leaked documents is of characters running the gamut of failings from “clueless” to “vain”.