Berlusconi says only he can lead Italy
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday dismissed suggestions that he should step down for the good of Italy's image, saying he was the only person qualified to lead the country now and by far the best in Italian history, Reuters reported.
Berlusconi, speaking at his first news conference since Italy's top court lifted his immunity from prosecution and opened the way for a resumption of corruption trials against him, also said he was the man most persecuted by judges "in the entire history of the world."
Berlusconi was asked by an American reporter about calls by critics that he step down because his personal and legal problems damage Italy's image in the world.
"The reality is completely the opposite," he said, remaining unusually calm in his response. "In my opinion, and not only mine, I am the best prime minister we can find today."
Smaller opposition parties and a number of editorials in foreign publications, including Friday's Financial Times, have called on the 73-year-old Berlusconi to resign.
In a major blow for the premier, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that a law granting him immunity from prosecution while he is in office violates the constitution. His lawyer said two trials against him could resume in two to three months, but he remained confident of acquittal.
Berlusconi's comments about being the only man for Italy's current political season also appeared to be a message to those within his center-right bloc who are said to be seeking a successor in Gianfranco Fini, lower house speaker and the second most important center-right leader.
At the news conference, Berlusconi repeated his assertion that he is the best prime minister in Italian history, but this time went one further when discussing his legal woes.
"I am without a doubt the person who has been most persecuted by judges of all times, in the entire history of the world and the history of man," he said.