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Thursday, 27 September, 2001
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi:
"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights" [End quote]
The European Union has denounced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's remarks about the superiority of Western civilisation, warning that they could have "dangerous" repercussions.
"These remarks could, in a dangerous way, have consequences," Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose nation holds the EU presidency, was quoted as saying.
"I can hardly believe that the Italian prime minister made such statements ... rather than bringing civilisations together, they could feed a feeling of humiliation."
Mr Verhofstadt was speaking as he left for Washington, where he is due to meet with US President George W Bush.
"We certainly don't share the views expressed yesterday by Mr Berlusconi," said Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.
The Italian prime minister caused a domestic political storm with his remarks about the superiority of Western civilisation.
During a visit to Germany Mr Berlusconi said the West guaranteed respect for human rights and religion - something he said did not exist in the Islamic world.
One prominent member of Italy's centre-left opposition, Giovanni Berlinguer, accused Mr Berlusconi of launching into eccentric and dangerous calls for conflict between civilisations.
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