Someone wants to kill me, claims Berlusconi

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Silvio Berlusconi's personal, political and legal problems are mounting, leading the Italian Prime Minister's media and political allies to speak of a plot against him and a risk of an early election.

"Berlusconi under siege," was the headline in yesterday's edition of Il Giornale, the daily newspaper owned by Berlusconi's brother, above an article which promised to "reveal the plot" against him. A trial against him on charges of false accounting and tax fraud resumes today, after Italy's highest court lifted his immunity from prosecution last month, and another corruption trial is scheduled to resume on 27 November.

Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing. But some commentators now predict an early end to his government. In the past week prosecutors have accused a junior Treasury minister of links with the mafia, and Berlusconi's wife filed for a divorce which promises to be messy and costly, citing him as responsible for the breakdown.

And this weekend it emerged that Berlusconi has been avoiding his usual Rome residence because he believes he is under threat from al-Qa'ida. "I am very worried," he was quoted as saying in Italy's main daily, Corriere della Sera, and other newspapers on Sunday. "There is someone who wants to blow me up."