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Saturday, 23 October, 1999, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Giulio Andreotti: Mr Italy
Andreotti
Andreotti: Convicted of murdering a journalist
Giulio Andreotti, Italy's foremost elder statesman, has survived many political crises during his controversial career.

He has long strived to restore his reputation, tarnished after accusations of links to the underworld surfaced in 1993.

But the appeals court found him guilty of the 1979 murder of an investigative journalist - overturning a previous acquittal.

The journalist, Mino Pecorelli, was about to publish a book containing damaging criticisms of Mr Andreotti by murdered Christian Democratic leader Aldo Moro.

Protege

The man known as the "eternal Giulio", or "Mr Italy", is the model of political longevity, having dominated Italian politics since the end of World War II.

Andreotti
The quintessential Italian powerbroker
He was born in Rome in 1919 and went on to study law. He became president of the Catholic Action student movement in 1942 and later became a journalist with an underground Christian Democrat paper. By 1944, Mr Andreotti was already a member of the Christian Democrat national council.

The man who would become the founder of Italy's post-war republic, Alcide de Gaspari, took Andreotti under his wing and gave him his first taste of public office in 1947.

Mr de Gaspari - by then prime minister - appointed him undersecretary to the Council of Ministers, a post that wielded considerable influence.

He became a familiar face in the corridors of power during Italy's transformation into one of the world's foremost industrial powers.

Powerbroker

Andreotti went on to serve seven times as Italian prime minister between 1972 and 1992 and was a member of practically every Christian Democrat Italian government between the end of World War II and his retirement from active politics.

Pope
The Pope spoke of "pain and suffering heaped upon Andreotti"
The only position the veteran politician never held was the presidency for which he longed.

In office he was renowned as a national powerbroker gifted in the art of survival, cunning and compromise. His critics have accused him of being the quintessential back-room wheeler-dealer.

Andreotti's political standing suffered a blow in early 1992 when the Christian Democrats mustered a poor showing in legislative elections.

He was also a victim of the public's discontent with the post-war generation of revolving door politicians, who came and went only to bounce back again.

He finally decided to leave the political stage in June 1992.

Endurance

In a career spanning nearly half a century, he occupied nearly all ministerial posts, and was foreign minister six times.

He is widely credited with having shaped the broad outlines of Italian foreign policy, in particular in relation to the US, Nato, the European Union and the Arab world.

Allies such as Washington admired Andreotti because his political durability showed that despite appearances Italy, a key member of Nato, was a model of stability.

He has known personally most American presidents and British prime ministers of the last 50 years. A devout Roman Catholic who attends mass every morning, he has also been the confidant of five popes.

The seven-times prime minister is a lifelong scholar of ancient history, which he says helps him put the present into perspective.

Andreotti has an appetite for work, fuelled by his insomnia.

He only sleeps a few hours each night and spends the rest of his time writing books, notably on the popes and his late mentor, de Gaspari.

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24 Sep 99 | Europe
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