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Ironduke
25 Aug 03,, 01:09
Italy and Germany mend fences

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has finally met his German counterpart Gerhard Schroeder, after pulling out of an evening with him at the opera.
The opera date had been planned partly as a gesture of reconciliation, following an earlier row when Mr Berlusconi compared a German member of the European parliament to a Nazi.

Mr Berlusconi said he had stayed away out of respect for the city because an anti-government left-wing demonstration had been organised, in spite of elaborate security around Verona's amphitheatre.

The two leaders eventually shook hands as they met in the Verona prefect's office, their first meeting since the spat in July.

Italian radio said their summit got underway with Mr Berlusconi apologising for his "unavoidable" absence.

Mr Berlusconi said in a statement that Saturday's meeting with Mr Schroeder would be a "useful and positive occasion to consolidate and develop the friendly and collaborative relations" between Italy and Germany.

The BBC's David Willey, in Verona, said the body language of the two leaders spoke volumes; with Mr Schroeder relaxed and unhurried, and Mr Berlusconi all smiles, but very tense.

The German Chancellor described the spat over the remarks as "irritations" which had never caused any basic problem to Italian-German relations.

Mr Berlusconi said he and his wife had sacrificed themselves by not attending the opera.

But - our correspondent adds - Mr Berlusconi's apology failed to address why the head of government of a leading democracy in the European Union would be afraid to appear at a public entertainment on home territory.

'Unhappiness'

On Friday night, the German chancellor attended the performance of the opera Carmen with European Commission President Romano Prodi, who had originally invited him to Italy.

The German delegation appeared disappointed that there were two, rather than three, guests of honour at the dinner party hosted by the mayor of Verona.

"The chancellor regrets that he doesn't have the chance to enjoy this very light and very nice evening along with the prime minister," German government spokesman Bela Anda said on Friday.

Mr Prodi - who correspondents say is a known rival of Mr Berlusconi - said the prime minister had bowed out of the opera date just hours before the performance.

"We had the same reaction and feelings, of understanding of the decision but also unhappiness. I was unhappy because I thought they were important meetings."


Summer rift

Mr Schroeder demanded an apology in July after Mr Berlusconi compared a German MEP, Martin Schulz, with a Nazi prison guard.

He also cancelled a summer holiday in Italy after a junior minister described Germany as an "arrogant" country and its citizens as "stereotyped blonds".

Mr Schroeder's decision to attend the opera with Mr Prodi was originally seen as another snub to Mr Berlusconi - but then Mr Prodi and the mayor of Verona invited the prime minister too.

City officials who orchestrated the meeting are said to be angry with Mr Berlusconi, who they say has behaved selfishly, the BBC's David Willey in Verona reports.

A small anti-Berlusconi demonstration did take place but it was far from the opera house.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3174755.stm

Leader
05 Sep 03,, 18:31
Great:rolleyes: soon they will be taking over Europe together.