Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Saturday, 18 February 2006

Profile: Roberto Calderoli

Roberto Calderoli
What's at stake is Western civilisation: Roberto Calderoli
Roberto Calderoli, the Italian minister who has quit in the latest row over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad, is known for his outspoken and often inflammatory comments.

A senior member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, he recently called Muslim immigrants in Italy "Ali Babas" who were stealing houses and jobs from native Italians.

He claimed responsibility for excluding immigrant families from a state handout for babies.

"All these Ali Babas should turn to Allah, or to their own governments - if they find time to devote to the needs of their people rather than the atomic bomb or buying arms," he said.

He has also said anyone trying to enter the country illegally should be "returned to sender" and those living illegally in Italy should be expelled.

"All the forces of law and order ought to be used and all, the good and the bad, should be removed - all, I stress all the illegals in town," he said.

"The period of the carrot has come to an end and now it's time for zero tolerance."

Last year, he and his party called for the "chemical castration" of those who commit sexual offences after a series of rapes in Italy by suspected illegal immigrants.

"This will put these beasts in a state of being unable to re-offend," he said.

'Battle for freedom'

The 49-year-old former dentist from the northern city of Bergamo was minister without portfolio for institutional reform and devolution.

Both he and his party, which holds the balance of power in Silvio Berlusconi's coalition, are euro-sceptic and have called for Italy to ditch the euro and return to using lira.

"The euro has made us all poorer," he said last summer.

He has also shown little sympathy for calls for same-sex unions in Italy, describing as "nauseating" the large number of gay rights activists who demonstrated in Rome last month.

Mr Calderoli was widely criticised by his cabinet colleagues for announcing earlier this week that he would distribute T-shirts emblazoned with the controversial cartoons.

He even undid his shirt live on television to reveal he was wearing one of the offending t-shirts.

Despite growing calls for his resignation - and facing blame for the riot in Libya on Friday that led to at least 10 deaths - Mr Calderoli was defiant, calling it a "battle for freedom".

"I can be sorry for the victims, but what happened in Libya has nothing to do with my T-shirt. The question is different. What's at stake is Western civilisation," he was quoted by the daily La Repubblica as saying.

Stepping down, he said was "out of a sense of responsibility" and "not because it was demanded by the government and the opposition".

Ten die in Libya cartoon clash
18 Feb 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Italy
20 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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