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Italy's Berlusconi defends reputation in Europe

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday defended his reputation in Europe but accused Germany of imposing austerity on everyone as he contests his sixth election in nearly two decades.

"Saying that I am not well regarded while others are would be a lie," the 76-year-old Berlusconi told a press conference.

"I have friendly ties with all my European colleagues and American presidents," said the billionaire tycoon, who has earned a reputation for frequent gaffes at international summits.

At meetings with other European leaders "the person who was most informed on the economy, on business, on the market and on politics was Silvio Berlusconi," the three-time prime minister said.

Berlusconi also blamed Europe's current problems on the absence of leadership of the calibre of the late French president Francois Mitterrand and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

He said austerity had been "imposed by Nordic countries and Germany" and had "become a disaster".

With ever more austerity drives, eurozone states "will have to leave the euro one after the other", he said.

Berlusconi's centre-right coalition is running second in the polls behind a centre-left coalition led by Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani.

Italians take to the polls on February 24-25.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130201/italys-berlusconi-defends-reputation-europe