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Why Berlusconi needs G8 (radio)

July 6, 2009

(transcript from this video)

A foreign plot to destabilise the leader, warnings of a palace coup, demonstrators preparing to take to the streets. No this is not the Islamic republic of Iran but Italy on the eve of a gathering of world leaders of the richest countries  for the annual G8 summit.

Such is the longevity of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s three-time prime minister and billioonaire media baron, that this is the third G8 he is hosting after Naples in 1994 and Genoa in 2001. This is a record, he points out, making him the most expert of alll his peers. In fact the G8 is more like a G39 when all the other invited heads of government and international institions are included. This too, says mr Berlusconi is also a record.

In an interview with his brother’s newspaper, Mr Berlusconi declares himself calm and in control. Everything is ready and the only thing worrying him is a chronic neck problem. As is often the case in Italy, the whole picture is rather more complicated.

The prime minister is battling almost daily revelations in the media, some leaked by official investigators, concerning his colourful private life. Prostitutues, some said to be lesbian, another a trans-sexual, are
alleged to have been invited and paid to attend his lavish parties in villas in Rome and sardinia.  Part of the entertainment, they say, is to watch vides of Mr Berlusconi’s meetings with world leaders and his
expl;oits on the international stage.

This he says is a nefarious plot cooked up by hwat he calls the walking corpse of the left-wing opposition, aided and abetted by a few left is it newspapers in italy and foreign outlets, espceically those owned by his
media baron rival, Rupert Murdoch.

Over the weekend Mr Berlusconi’s office warned foreign newspapers, specifically those in the Murdoch group, that he would take legal action against them if they went ahead and published pictures taken of his
guests during those private moments. There is nothig to hide, he insists, because if those pictures did appear they were surely digitally manipulated which would be an even greater crime.

Originally the G8 summit was to have been held on a small island off Sardinia, presenting ricky logistics involving cruise ships to host delegations and reporters among the 30,000 or so people expected. The
april 6 earthquake in l’aquila in central italy, which killed nearly 300 people and destroyed the medieval heart of the city, prompted mr Berlusconi to shift the venue to what he calls the city of suffering, or at least a police barracks just outside.

More than anything mr berlusconi is hoping for three days of trouble-free discussions that will produce concrete results and cast italy in a positive light as leader of a troubled world. The first day, wednesaday,  will be devoted to the global financial crisis and important international developments, such as Iran and North Korea.

Day two will concentrate in part on the potentially contentious subject of climate change and emissions targets. Friday, the final day, will focus on Africa and food security. Mr Berlusconi is under fire, most
notably from rock star campaigner Bob Geldof, for reneging on past promises of aid. Another big promise of financial help, to be led by the US and Japan, and of course supported by Italy, would go a long way in
restoring Mr Berlusocni’s credibility.

Anti-global demonstrators gathering in rome and l’aquila will also try to make their voices heard, as will the 22,000 or so residents of l’aquila living in tents who complain that the government is already failing on its promises to help them get back into their homes.

As always there is a plan b. in the event of a another major tremor, the summit leaders are to be whisked back to rome by helicopter to continue their talks in the capital. It promises to be an intriguing week for
italy and a very important one for Mr Berlusconi.

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