Berlusconi slammed for ’suntanned Obama’ remark

November 7th, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaLondon, Nov 7 (IANS) Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been criticised after he praised American President-elect Barack Obama - for his “suntan”. The 72-year-old media tycoon Berlusconi, on a visit to Moscow, Thursday described Obama as “young, handsome and even tanned”.

Berlusconi said the relative youth of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, 43, and Obama, 47, should make it easier for Moscow and Washington to work together.

“I told the president that (Obama) has everything needed in order to reach deals with him: He’s young, handsome and even tanned,” he said through an interpreter.

Berlusconi later defended the remark, calling it “a great compliment… If they have the vice of not having a sense of humour, worse for them,” Italy’s ANSA news agency reported.

The Italian leader said the remark was meant to be “cute” and called his critics “imbeciles, of which there are too many”.

The website of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica said: “Right on cue comes the first almighty gaffe which risks to outshine even the German MEP one” - a reference to the time Berlusconi described a German member of the European Parliament as a “prison of war camp guard”.

Italian opposition MP Dario Franceschini said: “He needs to apologise straight away. The best theory is that he can no longer control himself.

“What Berlusconi doesn’t realise is that his words damage the image of our country across the whole world. To say that the new President of the United States is handsome, young and suntanned will be seen as offensive by the whole world. It’s loaded with dangerous ambiguity,” Franceschini added.

Berlusconi’s gaffe comes after a member of the rightwing National Alliance, Maurizio Gasparri, said: “With Obama in the White House, perhaps Al Qaeda is happier”, prompting a demand for an apology from the centre-left opposition.

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