Berlusconi backs his old friend Blair for role as EU President

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Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has backed his old chum Tony Blair for President of Europe in an open letter to Il Foglio, the newspaper part-owned by his estranged wife Veronica, which is mounting a campaign in support of Mr Blair.

"Tony Blair has everything it takes to become the first President of the European Council," he wrote in a message published on the daily's front page. He went on: "My government and I will work to ensure we do not lose a great political legacy, made with courage, equilibrium and prudence without uncertainty."

The friendship between the two men goes back to the start of the Iraq war, which Mr Berlusconi staunchly supported. In summer 2004 the Blair family enjoyed a holiday at Mr Berlusconi's estate in Sardinia.

It is not the first time that the Italian prime minister has enthused about Mr Blair's candidacy. He has previously said that Mr Blair has the "ideal personality" for the job.