Embarrassment, mockery over Berlusconi's latest gaffe

Fri May 27, 2011 11:59am EDT
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By Barry Moody

ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi's latest international gaffe, when he complained to a bemused President Barack Obama about his problems with magistrates, was met with mockery, embarrassment and scorn at home on Friday.

Obama looked baffled when television cameras picked up the Italian prime minister buttonholing him at a Group of Eight meeting in France and treating him to one of his trade mark tirades about magistrates who have hauled him into court for four concurrent trials.

Microphones picked up Berlusconi telling Obama during a pause in the G8 meeting: "We have presented a justice reform that is fundamental to us. In Italy we have almost a dictatorship of leftist judges."

The incident prompted wide negative press coverage only two days before local elections on Sunday and Monday where Berlusconi risks suffering a humiliating defeat that could finally mark a decline in his political dominance of Italy.

"The prime minister has clearly lost his head," said left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper in a front page editorial.

Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the largest opposition party, quipped that Berlusconi was probably asking Obama for NATO military action against the judges.

The national magistrates association was incensed by the remarks. "It is very serious that...a fundamental state institution should be denigrated in front of one of the most powerful heads of state in the world," said the association's leader Luca Palamara.

"OBSESSIONS"   Continued...

<p>Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi talks to President Barack Obama at the first working session of the G8 Summit in Deauville, France May 26, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>