Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Italian neo-Fascist attacks homosexuals

ROME - In a further embarrassment to the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, an Italian neo-Fascist candidate for the European Parliament sparked anger yesterday by saying gays should be sent to concentration camps.

Piero Buscaroli, who is running for the neo-Fascist-led National Alliance which has contributed five ministers to Mr Berlusconi's cabinet, angered Italy's homosexuals after his comments were reported by the newspaper Corriere Della Sera. He confirmed his views in an interview with Reuters, in which he said homosexuals had no place in society and should be called 'fairies and queens' rather than 'gays'.

'They lead terrible lives,' said Mr Buscaroli, 63. 'If it were up to me, I'd send them all to live in concentration camps.' Mr Buscaroli, a journalist who contributes to the Berlusconi family-owned newspaper Il Giornale, is a member of the neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), political heirs of dictator Benito Mussolini and the core party in the National Alliance.

Though his anti-homosexual comments were disowned by his party, gay rights groups said they feared Mr Buscaroli's statements signalled a new era of intolerance in Italy. 'This is the sort of sympathy that the parties in the new government have for minorities,' said Francesco Grillini, the president of Arcigay-Arcilesbica, the country's biggest gay rights group. 'We are afraid that the new government is re-evaluating the values and methods of the past - the Nazi-fascist past.'

Mr Berlusconi, sworn in two weeks ago at the head of a government which includes federalists, free-marketeers and the neo-Fascists, has been working hard to quell international fears over the presence of the extreme right in his cabinet. In his maiden speech to Italians, the media tycoon vowed to transform Italy into a more sympathetic and tolerant country that would protect its weakest members.

National Alliance and MSI spokesman Francesco Storace disowned Mr Buscaroli's comments. 'They are freakish personal opinions,' Mr Storace said. 'What he says is his problem . . . '