Berlusconi buys off his party rebels

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London, Aug 2 (ANI): Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi before slipping away for the summer recess, called about 30 of his MPs to a meeting in his 17th-century Roman palazzo.

According to an account in the newspaper La Repubblica, as the meeting was about to break up, Berlusconi, who recently admitted he was no saint, asked his followers: "Have you heard the latest one about La D'Addario?" Egged on by their denials, he is reported to have added: "She says Berlusconi may not, in fact, be a saint. But he fucks like a god!"

As millions of Italians yesterday packed for their holidays and prepared to forget politics till the autumn, their endlessly controversial leader never looked less like resigning, The Guardian reported.

He could, of course, fall to new revelations. In an apparent reference to her night with the Prime Minister, Patrizia D'Addario said on Friday night:"At those parties in which I took part worse things happened, I can assure you."

On Thursday, Italians were given a dramatic reminder that the investigation that brought to light their prime minister's relationship with D'Addario and other "escorts" was not directed at possible wrongdoing on the right but the left, The Guardian reported.

Police in Bari raided the offices of five opposition parties. They were armed with warrants issued by prosecutors looking into suspected illegal party funding over a period from 2005 to the present. Bari is the capital of Apulia, a region governed by Nichi Vendola, one of the left's few charismatic figures.

The suspicion is that politicians in his administration steered health service contracts to suppliers in exchange for kickbacks to their parties' coffers.

By yesterday Berlusconi had neutralised the threat in the time-honoured fashion of Italian prime ministers - by throwing money at the Mezzogiorno, the paper reported. (ANI)

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