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Berlusconi diagnosed with leukemia – media

The former Italian PM was admitted to intensive care on Wednesday after suffering from breathing problems

Silvio Berlusconi, one of the most dominant figures in Italian politics and the country’s prime minister for four terms, has been diagnosed with leukemia, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. The 86-year-old was admitted to hospital in Milan on Wednesday after complaining of breathing problems.

“Berlusconi spent a quiet night, his condition is stable,” Italian Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, who also serves as foreign minister, told RAI television on Thursday. “We all want to be optimistic and we hope that the lion will return soon to take charge of the party. He’s our political leader and of course he never gives up.” 

Berlusconi heads the Forza Italia party, which is among the members of current Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition, although he does not have a role in government.

The former prime minister has begun a course of chemotherapy, the ANSA news agency reported, with initial treatment beginning on Wednesday. The report added that he remains in a stable condition as of Thursday.

Berlusconi’s spokesperson, Paolo Russo, did not deny the reports of his diagnosis when questioned by the media, saying only that Corriere della Sera, which initially reported on the matter, “is the most authoritative Italian newspaper.” A second spokesperson for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party also declined to deny the report.

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The party released a statement early on Thursday to say that Berlusconi had called for “maximum commitment” in parliament following his hospitalization.

The often-controversial Berlusconi has been a semi-permanent fixture in Italian politics for decades. He served as prime minister from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. He was suspended from politics for six years after a tax fraud conviction, but returned to Italy’s senate last year following national elections.

The former media mogul faced several scandals throughout his tenure at the summit of Italy’s legislature. He has been on trial more than 30 times for alleged crimes ranging from abuse of office, defamation, and association with the mafia.

In 2011, he was investigated for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute at one of his notorious ‘bunga bunga’ parties, but was later acquitted after a judge found that Berlusconi was unaware that the girl was underage. Berlusconi denied the claims against him.

Outside of politics, Berlusconi is known for his work in building Italy’s largest television network as well as his former ownership of soccer team AC Milan. He has suffered various health problems in recent years, requiring heart surgery in 2016 as well as contracting prostate cancer. He was diagnosed with Covid-19 in 2020, which resulted in several hospital visits.

April 06, 2023 at 05:22PM

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