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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Berlusconi 'almost a German'
Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi hopes his comments will improve relations with Germany
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has made a fresh attempt to settle the row which followed his "Nazi" slur on a German politician.

Mr Berlusconi told the mass circulation German newspaper Bild in an interview published on Monday that his reputation as a workaholic meant that he was considered "almost German" himself.

The prime minister had caused controversy by likening a heckling German European Parliament member to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Work, work, work - I am almost a German
Silvio Berlusconi
The row deepened when a junior minister described German tourists as "hyper-nationalistic blondes", leading German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a holiday to Italy.

The diplomatic fallout from the comments tarnished the start of Italy's presidency of the European Union.

But Mr Berlusconi said in the interview that he and Mr Schroeder had "done everything" to limit damage from the incident in the European Parliament.

Classical education

He said that Mr Schroeder was "always welcome" and that the relationship between the two countries could not be better.

He added that he shared some traditional German virtues.

"In Italy I am almost seen as a German for my workaholism, also because I am from Milan, the city where people work the hardest," he said.

"Work, work, work - I am almost a German."

There has been no response so far from the German Government to the comments.

Mr Berlusconi also mentioned his love for German culture stemming from his classical education.

"Of course for me Goethe is the master of German poetry," he said.

"And I naturally treasure all German philosophers from Kant to Nietzsche."

Bild led a vigorous German media fight-back against the comments by Mr Berlusconi and his tourism minister, Stefano Stefani, who subsequently resigned from office.

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