Italy’s Berlusconi diagnosed with leukemia, doctors say

ROME – Doctors for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi say he is being treated for a lung infection that suggests he has a “chronic blood disorder” which is a type of leukaemia.

Berlusconi’s personal physician, Alberto Zangrillo, signed a medical bulletin issued Thursday afternoon that said Berlusconi had “for some time” leukemia in a “persistent chronic phase.”

The 86-year-old media mogul, who served three terms as Italy’s prime minister and now serves in the Senate, was admitted to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Wednesday to be treated for a respiratory problem said by aid workers who suspected a previous infection were due.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ROME (AP) – Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is alert and in stable condition during his second day in intensive care at a Milan hospital, a close political ally said on Thursday, adding that he could not confirm Italian media reports that Berlusconi had been diagnosed with leukemia.

“I spoke to Professor (Alberto) Zangrillo this morning. He told me that Prime Minister Berlusconi spent the night quietly,” said Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who is coordinator of Forza Italia, the political party founded by media mogul Berlusconi some 30 years ago.

“His condition is stable,” said Tajani in an interview on Italian state television.

Zangrillo, Berlusconi’s longtime doctor, is the chief anesthetist at the San Raffaele hospital where his patient is being treated. The former three-time prime minister and now senator left the same hospital a week ago after several days of testing.

Zangrillo has not yet commented on why Berlusconi, 86, was hospitalized.

An undersecretary at the culture ministry, who has long been a prominent Forza Italia lawmaker, told reporters Berlusconi had leukemia. Italian media in Turin quoted Vittorio Sgarbi as saying the former prime minister was “faced with an obviously difficult situation from which he has to miraculously come out and all his friends hope he comes out of it.”

Sgarbi, an art critic by trade, did not say where he found out about the diagnosis.

When asked by an Italian reporter about Sgarbi’s comments, Tajani replied, “I’m not a doctor,” and therefore could not comment.

On Wednesday, shortly after Berlusconi was hospitalized, Tajani said the former three-time prime minister had been suffering from breathing problems stemming from a previous infection.

Without citing a source, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that Berlusconi had received chemotherapy.

Berlusconi’s party leader in the lower house of the Italian parliament, Paolo Barelli, told reporters that Berlusconi was “responsive to treatment,” but Barelli declined to specify what type of treatment it was.

One of Berlusconi’s closest associates did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment on the leukemia report.

A statement from Forza Italia said Berlusconi spoke to several party officials on the phone Thursday morning about political matters.

Meanwhile, family members continued to visit Berlusconi. Upon arrival at the hospital, his brother Paolo, eldest daughter Marina and younger son Luigi were sighted.

In recent years, Berlusconi has suffered from numerous health problems, including a heart condition and COVID-19 in 2020, which saw him hospitalized with pneumonia in critical condition.

He has had a pacemaker for years, underwent heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in 2016, and beat prostate cancer decades ago.

His brother made no comment when he arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning. But when he left the hospital the night before, Paolo Berlusconi said of his brother: “He’s a rock. So he will make it this time too.”

On March 31, as he left the hospital after undergoing a series of tests, Berlusconi tweeted that he was “ready and determined to continue my commitment to the country I love.”

With no political legacy in sight despite Berlusconi’s multiple health setbacks, Forza Italia’s popularity has slumped to a fraction in the elections, as voters helped to repeatedly catapult him into the prime minister’s post despite his legal woes.

Among the messages for a speedy recovery was one from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who tweeted “Forza Silvio” and played the football chant that Berlusconi made the name of his political party, which is currently one of two junior coalition partners in Meloni’s nearly six-month right Government.

On Wednesday, during a roll-call vote of confidence in the Senate, when Berlusconi’s name was called and an official said “absent,” applause erupted in the upper chamber of parliament from across the political spectrum.

The Senate seat won by Berlusconi in September is the result of his recent political comeback. A decade ago, he was banned from holding public office over a tax fraud conviction stemming from dealings in his media empire.

Last year, he sparked an uproar with comments about his old friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who boasted the two had exchanged birthday greetings. Berlusconi has also blamed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the war.


Luca Bruno in Milan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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