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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Berlusconi regrets Islam jibe
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel (left) and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa
The EU and Arab League were not impressed
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended himself against a storm of criticism over his assertion that Western civilisation is superior to Islam.

He says his remarks were poorly translated and quoted out of context.


I am sorry that words, badly interpreted, have offended the sensibility of my Arab and Muslim friends

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi
"They have tried to hang me on an isolated word, taken out of context from my whole speech," Mr Berlusconi told Italy's upper house of parliament.

The remarks enraged Islamic nations and were seen as undermining American efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism.

Western 'superiority'

On Wednesday, the flamboyant politician told reporters that Western civilisation was superior to Islam because it provided wealth and guaranteed respect for human rights.

He also said that he hoped "the West will continue to conquer peoples, like it conquered communism".

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi's comments came at a bad time
The statement was denounced by European Union and Muslim leaders alike, while the Arab League called on Mr Berlusconi either to deny having made the comments or offer an apology.

Just hours before Friday's apology, British Home Secretary David Blunkett launched a public attack on the embattled Italian prime minister.

'Inappropriate'

Mr Blunkett described his remarks as inappropriate and inaccurate.

"It is clear that Berlusconi's remarks were offensive and offence has been taken," he told the BBC.

"They were inappropriate in terms of the way in which they affect the consensus across the world in the face of terrorism, and they were culturally inaccurate."

Mr Blunkett called on the Italian leader to repair any damage his comments may have caused.

"I hope he will be able to clarify his position, in order to be a constructive part of the consensus to bring about justice by tackling the terrorists rather than falling out among ourselves," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Robbins
"King Abdullah of Jordan pledged total support"
Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi (in Italian)
"We should not put the two civilisations on the same level"
See also:

27 Sep 01 | Middle East
Arabs demand Berlusconi apology
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia warns of West-Islam split
17 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush seeks Muslim support
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