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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Mr Berlusconi said he would be prime minister of all Italians"
 real 28k

Former Forza Italia senator Bob Lasagne
"There are no laws governing conflict of interest in Italy... today there are no laws"
 real 28k

Tana de Zulueta, opposition senator
"National broadcasting is exclusively controlled by Mr Berlusconi... a strange situation to be in in a Western democracy"
 real 28k

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Berlusconi replies to critics
Silvio Berlusconi waves prior to delivering a speech before the Senate
Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's wealthiest citizen
By David Willey in Rome

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has promised to address the conflict of interests between his political role and his huge business empire.

I have publicly promised to present a bill resolving potential conflicts of interest

Silvio Berlusconi
He told Parliament - where he faces votes of confidence later this week - that he would submit a draft law on the subject before it rises for its summer recess in early August.

"I will tackle it with the greatest possible objectivity and effectiveness," he said.

The Italian prime minister has come in for criticism both at home and abroad for failing to address the conflict of interest between his role as political leader with the continuing administration of his family-owned financial empire, worth an estimated $12bn.

He has hitherto been reluctant to divest himself of control of his personal fortune and gave no details of the new draft law.

Mr Berlusconi said he would keep his promise to present such a bill, but his conscience meant that it was unnecessary.

"I reiterate that my history as an entrepreneur in the communications sector, and my personal conscience, allow no-one to suspect that in my institutional activities I act for any ends other than the common good," he said.

G8 meeting

Mr Berlusconi confirmed that the G8 meeting which he is due to host next month in the port city of Genoa would go ahead as planned, despite fears of violence by opponents of globalisation following the confrontation between Swedish police and demonstrators at the recent EU summit in Gothenburg.

Umberto Bossi
Bossi campaigned for an independent northern Italy
Striking a conciliatory note with the left-wing opposition, Mr Berlusconi said he would be prime minister of all Italians and he confirmed his intention of keeping his election promises to cut taxes and increase the value of the basic state pension.

Mr Berlusconi also played down the row which broke out in Rome over remarks to Northern League members by his coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, claiming that devolution in northern Italy is imminent.

Opposition leaders have called Mr Bossi's remarks grotesque and the former Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Luciano Violante, said there could be no question of swearing double allegiance both to Italy and to the fictitious northern state of Padania, which Mr Bossi has invented.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | Europe
Italian press react to Berlusconi
15 May 01 | Europe
Berlusconi lays out big plans
14 May 01 | Europe
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
11 May 01 | Media reports
'Life is not beautiful' if Berlusconi wins
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