Tue, Dec 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Berlusconi reportedly in US for pacemaker implant

AP , ROME

A close ally of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Sunday that the ailing media mogul has decided to have surgery in the US, and a senior aide was quoted as saying that Berlusconi went to the US for medical tests, amid reports that he would get a pacemaker.

"Berlusconi has decided to have surgery in America," Northern League leader Umberto Bossi told a rally of supporters in Milan without naming the hospital or kind of operation.

Berlusconi's spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, arriving at the former prime minister's residence in Rome later on Sunday, said that Berlusconi had arrived on Sunday in the US "for some medical tests which had been planned," the ANSA news agency reported.

ANSA said Bonaiuti told a reporter outside the residence that more news would be given in the coming days, but no details were immediately given.

Bonaiuti did not return calls for comment on the reports, but a member of Berlusconi's staff said that Bonaiuti's comments could be taken as factual.

Rumors that the 70-year-old conservative leader was considering having the implant have been swirling since Friday, when a conservative Italian daily wrote that he was going to the US for a pacemaker operation.

Berlusconi told reporters on Saturday that he would be in Rome in the coming week to work, but did not directly comment on the rumors.

On Nov. 26, Berlusconi collapsed while giving a speech to his Forza Italia party in Tuscany, and spent a few days in a Milan hospital for tests. His aides and doctor blamed the collapse on a sharp drop in blood pressure.

Without citing sources, Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported on Sunday that Berlusconi spoke by phone on Wednesday with US President George W. Bush to sound him out about various hospitals in the US.

Italian news reports said that Berlusconi's two oldest children have been pressing their father to have a pacemaker implanted but that he has been resisting.

In the past, Berlusconi has told reporters that he had successfully battled prostate cancer, saying he had surgery for it in 1997.

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