Putin Lands in Sardinia for Berlusconi Meeting

APBerlusconi meeting Putin on his arrival Thursday at an airport in Sardinia.
PORTO ROTONDO, Sardinia -- Italian Prime Minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi greeted his old friend and political ally President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for talks at his Sardinian villa.

Berlusconi walked up the stairs of Putin's jet and embraced him. The two men waved to a small crowd huddled beneath umbrellas in light rain, before driving away to Berlusconi's nearby mansion.

"We'll talk about the relations between Russia and the EU and also the contrasts and divisions with the West," Berlusconi said before Putin's arrival.

The meeting with Putin was arranged quickly after the conservative billionaire clinched Italy's national elections Sunday and Monday, although Berlusconi has not yet been sworn in for what will be his third stint as prime minister.

The men were to have a private dinner Thursday night at Berlusconi's luxury retreat. They also were expected to discuss the possibility of energy deals, as well as Alitalia's sale.

Asked whether Aeroflot remained a possible player in a deal to take over the struggling Italian carrier, Berlusconi said, "All possibilities are open as long as Alitalia remains the flagship carrier and decisions remain here."

The two leaders planned a news conference Friday before Putin departs.