Berlusconi's minister resigns over anti-German comments

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The Independent Online

The Italian minister who caused a storm with his anti-German comments resigned last night after being described as "nothing but a fool" by Italy's Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini.

Stefano Stefani, a junior tourism minister who is a allied to the Northern League party, outraged Berlin by labelling German visitors as "blonde nationalists", a comment that provoked the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, to cancel his holiday in Italy.

"He has resigned from the government on my request," said the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Asked to interpret the meaning of Mr Stefani's comments, Mr Fini said: "A fool is just a fool, nothing but a fool."

The row is the second incident to blight relations between Italy and Germany, coming less than a week after Mr Berlusconi himself likened a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp commandant.

"In my government, he wouldn't have survived another hour," Mr Schröder said yesterday. The Chancellor's office said he had no comment on Mr Stefani's resignation, but added the move would not change his plans to spend his holiday in Hanover.