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Silvio Berlusconi's most controversial and distasteful political moments

Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was not known for his sensitivity and certainly was not short of controversial remarks.

The 86-year-old billionaire media mogul's sense of humour often landed him in trouble.

Here, we take a look at some of his most awkward, distasteful and offensive comments.

'Many loved him, many hated him' - latest updates

Sweet letter to Putin as Russia invaded Ukraine

In October last year, Berlusconi stood resolutely by his old friend, Russian president Vladimir Putin, despite anger in the West over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The former Italian leader said the Russian leader sent him a "very sweet letter" - and he sent one back.

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He said: "Putin for my birthday sent me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter. I replied with bottles of Lambrusco and an equally sweet letter."

Read more:
The media mogul-turned-prime minister set the mould for other populists to follow

Called Obama 'handsome' and 'suntanned'

Among the series of controversial remarks, Berlusconi also described Barack Obama as "handsome, young, and tanned.''

He made the remark to Mr Obama in November 2008, after Mr Obama was elected as US president and also became the country's first Black president.

Told earthquake survivors they should look at it as 'weekend of camping'

Back in 2009, Berlusconi visited survivors of an earthquake in the central Abruzzo region of Italy, who were staying in emergency tents.

He said: "They should look at it as a weekend of camping."

The earthquake killed around 300 people and made tens of thousands of others homeless.

Condemned by Vatican newspaper over 'deplorable' jokes

Berlusconi was also condemned by the Vatican’s official newspaper in October 2010, after he told a joke about a Jew who charges fellow Jews to hide in his basement from the Nazis, without telling them World War Two is over.

He also made a series of other jokes, which were described as "deplorable" by the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Berlusconi: 'It's better to like beautiful girls than to be gay'

The former Italian prime minister also sparked controversy over an offensive comment he made in 2010.

He dismissed calls to resign over reports he helped a 17-year-old girl who attended parties at his house, saying it was "better to like beautiful girls than to be gay."

Berlusconi refused to apologise for his fondness for young women and denied doing anything improper.

"As always, I work without interruption and if occasionally I happen to look a beautiful girl in the face, it’s better to like beautiful girls than to be gay," he told a meeting at a motorcycle industry show in Milan.

West should be 'conscious of the superiority of our civilisation'

Berlusconi also boasted of the "supremacy" and "superiority" of Western civilisation and took aim at Islamic countries.

In October 2001 he said that while the West has a value system "that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion… This respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic Countries."

Rude gestures behind then-Spanish foreign minister

During a group photograph at an informal EU summit in Spain in 2002, Berlusconi sparked controversy after he raised two fingers behind the head of then Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique - in the traditional Latin gesture for a cuckold.

'Mussolini never killed anyone' - according to Berlusconi

He also claimed the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini "never killed anyone".

"Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday in (internal) exile," Berlusconi told the Spectator magazine in 2004, replying "yes" when asked if he thought the World War Two dictator was "benign".

'I am the Jesus Christ of politics'

In February 2006, Berlusconi was also quoted by Italian media telling supporters: "I am the Jesus Christ of politics.

"I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."