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Thanks to the election last year of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister is no longer the unknown face at G8 summits.

Mr. Berlusconi, a flamboyant 65-year-old media magnate, has thrust himself into the world spotlight ever since his right-wing government came to power in May, 2001, promising tax cuts, reform of the state bureaucracy and curbs on crime and immigration.

He has also managed to have the Italian parliament conveniently pass legislation that makes it more difficult for the courts to convict him on several pending cases of alleged financial wrongdoing.

As host of last year's G8 gathering in Genoa, Mr. Berlusconi has an added attachment to its agenda. He is seen as very supportive of Jean Chrétien's Africa plan and may come to Kananaskis with pledges of cash for Africa.

"If we do not make hunger disappear from the face of the Earth, there will be trouble, because in 25 years time, the population will grow by about two billion and we will have a situation in which six billion people will be marginalized from civilized society," he told a recent meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

He is also a very strong backer of the United States in its war against terrorism, having taken on the foreign affairs portfolio after his former minister quit.

At a one-day NATO summit last month outside Rome, he dazzled other leaders with a show of Italian pride. The red, white and green tricolour could be seen everywhere.

"Everyone loved it," Mr. Berlusconi said afterward. "I was standing with [Vladimir]Putin at the ceremonies. Three jet fighters came trailing red, white and green smoke. Putin asked, 'Is this a military exercise?' I replied, 'No, it's the menu. Everything was tricolore. The starter, the pasta, the ice cream.' "

Not all of Mr. Berlusconi's forays into foreign affairs have gone smoothly. In the days after Sept. 11, he outraged the Muslim world when he said Western civilization was superior to Islam because it respected human rights and contributed to the production of wealth. He later apologized for the comments.

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