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Berlusconi praises judges for plans to fight graft

Rome (Reuter) - Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, cautiously welcomed plans drafted by leading judges to end Italy's corruption scandals, but warned that judges should not intrude into the political arena.

The statement, his first public reaction to the proposals, were aimed at smoothing over divisions in his fragile coalition. A cabinet spokesman, Giuliano Ferrara, had earlier angered Mr Berlusconi's partners in the Northern League and the neo-fascist National Alliance, by rejecting the judges' plans.

Mr Berlusconi said he understood the anxieties felt by the prosecutor, Antonio Di Pietro, who launched the plans, and said he appreciated the 'constructive spirit' of his proposals.

The proposals would allow leniency for suspects implicated in scandal if they confessed and paid back bribe money. Those found guilty in the future would face much harsher treatment.