- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

ITALY

Berlusconi calls Obama “tanned guy”

ROME | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is poking fun at President Obama again.

Mr. Berlusconi has told a rally in Milan that he was bringing greetings from the United States from “What’s his name? Some tanned guy. Ah, Barack Obama!”

Shortly after Mr. Obama’s election, Mr. Berlusconi raised eyebrows by saying the victor was “young, handsome and even has a good tan.”

This time, Mr. Berlusconi took a poke at the first lady.

“You won’t believe it,” he said Sunday, “but two of them went to the beach because the wife is also tanned.”

Mr. Berlusconi is known for his gaffes.

European media have played up photos showing Michelle Obama greeting many leaders at a Pittsburgh summit last week with a kiss but stiffly holding out her arm to shake Mr. Berlusconi’s hand.

PORTUGAL

Public works pledges lift Socialists at polls

LISBON | Portuguese voters, anxious about an unemployment rate that has hit a 20-year high, were expected to return the Socialists to government in Sunday elections after the party campaigned on promises of big-ticket public works projects to help stimulate growth.

The center-left Socialists have blamed Portugal’s economic woes on the global meltdown and pledged to push through reforms to modernize outdated areas of the economy, such as the traditional garment and footwear industries, and provide more state aid for small companies.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates, the Socialist leader, has vowed to continue his government’s program of modernizing the country’s social system to cut excessive spending and improve public services. The program has irritated many, however, especially trade unions.

The main opposition Social Democratic Party have said the Socialists’ public works plans would saddle future generations with debt. It wants to facilitate more private enterprise, including through tax breaks.

Two recent opinion polls indicated voters prefer the Socialist option, with 38 percent to 30 percent for the Social Democrats.

BRITAIN

Brown prepares for next election

BRIGHTON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted he won’t quit his post as his governing Labor Party met Sunday for its annual convention before a national election the party is expected to lose.

Mr. Brown’s party trails far behind the main opposition Conservative Party in opinion polls, and has suffered heavy defeats in recent local council and European elections.

Mr. Brown himself has weathered sharp criticism of his leadership, not just from opposition politicians but also from within his own ranks. His clumsy handling of anger over Scotland’s decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, and an embarrassing admission that his government would need to cut public spending - despite earlier denials - have fueled new doubts about Mr. Brown’s prospects of leading Labor into the election.

“I do not roll over,” Mr. Brown, 58, told BBC television. “Leadership is fighting for what you believe in.”

Mr. Brown, who will address the five-day conference in seaside Brighton on Tuesday, must by law call an election before June, and his Labor Party will be seeking a fourth consecutive term in office. Labor won the three previous elections with Tony Blair as party leader. The next vote is expected in April or May.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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