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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Berlusconi moves to sort out businesses
Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi presides over a media and sports empire
With a week to go before the Italian general election, the centre-right opposition leader, Silvio Berlusconi, has appointed three experts to advise him on resolving potential conflicts of interest if he is elected premier.


I have appointed three international experts to work out a solution. There is an American, a Briton and a German

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, presides over a vast media empire. If he wins the election he would in effect control Italian television.

The Italian state runs three networks and Mr Berlusconi himself owns several private channels. He also presides over a sports, finance and real estate empire worth around $12bn.

In an interview with the UK newspaper The Sunday Times, Mr Berlusconi said one solution would be to put his holdings into a trust managed by independent financiers.

He also said he would use his experience - which has made him one of the world's richest men - to run Italy like a public company.

But his nearest rival, the centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli, called Mr Berlusconi's announcement mere propaganda.

Criticism

The Italian Prime Minister, Giuliano Amato, suggested that if Mr Berlusconi failed to find a solution to his potential conflicts of interest, Italy would become just another element in his vast business empire.

"How calmly, with what impartiality, can a prime minister take government decisions if they affect his own interests?" the Mr Amato said.

Francesco Rutelli
Rutelli called Berlusconi's announcement mere propaganda
Mr Berlusconi has also come under fire for his alliance with Umberto Bossi, the leader of the devolutionist Northern League, which has waged a campaign against immigration.

The prospect of his entering the government has raised alarm in some parts of Europe and prompted comparisons with the leader of the Austrian far right, Joerg Haider.

Opinion polls show Mr Berlusconi narrowly leading the race against his nearest rival.

Last week, an article in the London-based news magazine, The Economist, launched a stinging attack on Mr Berlusconi, saying that if he became prime minister, he would face huge conflicts of interest.

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04 May 01 | Europe
Profile: Berlusconi's allies
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