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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Assured of Italian Democracy

ROME -- U.S. President Bill Clinton has distanced himself from concern over the new rightist Italian government, saying Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had assured him it was committed to democracy. At a news conference with Berlusconi, Clinton said Thursday that he would judge the government, which includes three ministers from a neo-fascist party that traces its roots to dictator Benito Mussolini, by its words and actions. "The first thing the prime minister said to me was that his government from top to bottom was unequivocally committed to democracy," Clinton said. The president, touring Europe to mark the Allied defeat of the Nazis, took up the same theme during a speech to Romans from Capitoline Hill, the democratic heart of ancient Rome. "I believe Italy will pursue its democratic destiny with virtue and grace and as you pursue that destiny America will stand with you," he told the crowd. There has been widespread concern among Italy's neighbors over the composition of the rightist government. Socialists in the European Parliament said they would reject the next European Commission if it contained neo-fascists. The parliament has the power to reject the nominated commission if it does not like the candidates proposed by EU governments. Berlusconi rejected the fascist label which has been attached to the three ministers from the Italian Social Movement. "There is not and there could never be anybody in my government who does not believe in democracy" he said.