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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Italy Left demands minister's scalp
Stefano Stefani
Stefani has not offered an apology for his remarks
Italian opposition members of parliament have called for the sacking of Tourism Minister Stefano Stefani, who described Germans as hyper-nationalistic, blond beach invaders.

Mr Stefani's comments led German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel his planned holiday in Italy.

The diplomatic row between the two countries - which erupted last week when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi compared a German member of the European Parliament to a concentration camp commander - is showing no signs of dying down.

These statements have done grave damage to Italy's image
Opposition motion

The opposition motion calls for Mr Stefani's removal from office for the "gravity, inappropriateness and irresponsibility of his statements".

"These statements have done grave damage to Italy's image," the motion said, adding that tourism had already been damaged and the effects could get worse.

As the motion was presented in Rome, the governor of the Italian region where Mr Schroeder would have stayed stepped up his demands for compensation.

"We intend to ask for political compensation for the serious damage inflicted on our region," said Vito D'Ambrosio of the Marche region on the Adriatic Sea.

He compared Mr Stefani's comments to a natural disaster.

I don't hold anything against the Germans. I had a German wife for 20 years
Stefano Stefani

The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Rome says Italian hoteliers are concerned about the financial consequences of the dispute.

Ten million Germans visit Italy each year - making it the second most popular holiday destination for Germans behind Spain. Tourism officials are worried that many will now stay away.

The general secretary of Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats announced on Thursday that he was boycotting Italy in favour of France for his summer holiday.

Serious consequences

Mr Berlusconi responded to Mr Schroeder's move by saying he felt "sorry" for him.

Mr Stefani, meanwhile, who is a minister from the far-right Northern League, refused to apologise for his outspoken attack, though he said he would gladly invite Mr Schroeder to his house on Lake Garda.

"I don't hold anything against the Germans. I had a German wife for 20 years," he said.

"[But] on certain types of Germans I haven't changed my mind," he added.

Gerhard Schroeder
An angry Schroeder says he will stay in Germany
Several top German ministers have demanded that Mr Stefani should leave office over his remarks.

Interior Minister Otto Schily, speaking before Mr Schroeder's decision was announced, implied that Germans might vote with their feet.

"The Italians must know that there is competition for German tourists," he said.

"Those who kick you in the shins and spit at you must not be surprised that that is not good publicity for their country."

The mass-circulation Bild newspaper printed a coupon on Thursday which readers could send to the Italian embassy demanding Mr Stefani's removal.

The BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin says this is the worst moment yet in the crisis that has hit German-Italian relations after Mr Berlusconi's remarks.

Mr Schroeder's trip to the Adriatic resort of Pesaro had been due to start in mid-July.

He will now spend his holiday in his home town of Hanover.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Opposition parties insist the minister should resign"

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