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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
German MEP brands Italy 'racist'
Berlusconi makes
Berlusconi angered Germany with Nazi jibe
A German politician whose clash with the Italian prime minister set off a diplomatic row has labelled the Italian Government "racist".

Martin Schulz was compared earlier this month by Silvio Berlusconi to a Nazi concentration camp guard - sparking a major exchange of insults between politicians and media in both countries.

Now, in an interview with Germany's XXP television, Mr Schulz has reignited the row as it showed signs of dying down.

Quite simply, a racist government is in office in Italy
Martin Schulz
He condemned reported proposals by an Italian minister that coastguards should fire on boats bringing illegal immigrants to the country.

"This is the second point that we have to watch - that, quite simply, a racist government is in office in Italy," Mr Schulz said.

Mr Schulz originally angered Mr Berlusconi by heckling him in the European Parliament him about legislation that provided him with immunity from prosecution, and led to the suspension of a bribery trial.

German Socialist MEP Martin Schulz
Schulz challenged Berlusconi over alleged conflict of interest in Italy
His tactics prompted Mr Berlusconi's "Nazi" jibe.

In the row which followed, Italian tourism minister Stefano Stefani described German tourists as "hyper-nationalistic blondes", prompting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a holiday in Italy.

Mr Stefani resigned at the end of last week after fears that thousands of German tourists might join the chancellor's boycott.

He said he had not been referring to all Germans - only those "like Mr Schulz".

The comment that coastguards should fire on immigrant boats was allegedly made by Mr Berlusconi's coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, head of the far-right Northern League, although he later said he had been misquoted.

Mr Stefani is also a member of the Northern League.



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