Berlusconi shrugs off Russia sleaze allegations

13th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday denied personally benefiting from business deals with Russia, following a series of allegations contained in US cables released by WikiLeaks.

"I swear on my children and my grandchildren that not a single dollar of this foreign trade diplomacy has entered my pockets," Berlusconi told senators ahead of a key confidence vote on his government on Tuesday.

"As a businessman in politics, I have played the role of an agent representing the interests of Italian businesses," he said, adding: "I have a strong personal friendship with both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev."

Berlusconi said he had managed to secure contracts with Russia equivalent to three percent of Italy's gross domestic product (GDP) and had given Italian businesses "enormous space" for investing in Russia.

Several cables published by WikiLeaks in recent days have reflected US concern about Berlusconi's ties with Moscow and some have included reported allegations that he made money from deals with Russia.

Italy has close energy ties with Russia including joint work on the planned South Stream gas pipeline. Russian energy imports account for around 30 percent of Italy's total consumption.

© 2010 AFP

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