Italy's Berlusconi picks up EU campaign outside hospital

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ROME (AP) — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was discharged from a Milan hospital on Monday, six days after intestinal surgery and vowed to continue his campaign for a seat in the European Parliament.

Berlusconi, 82, told reporters outside San Raffaele Hospital he had some fear when he was hospitalized last week for abdominal pain, which led to a diagnosis of an intestinal blockage.

"This made me think I had reached the end of the line. Instead, I made a formidable comeback," he said.

Berlusconi said he would rest for a while and not lead any election rallies but would campaign for a seat in the European Union legislature on TV, radio and other media. He's running in this month's election for Forza Italia, the party the media mogul founded a quarter-century ago when he jumped into politics.

"I still feel useful for the future of Italians, Europeans and of the West," Berlusconi said.

After getting out of the hospital, he didn't waste time blasting the populist coalition now governing Italy, saying the two coalition partners "can only do one thing, squabble."

One of the governing parties is the right-wing, anti-migrant League party, which was a key ally in Berlusconi's own coalition governments as premier in three stints. Led by hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the party has seen soaring popularity in opinion polls and tension with its governing partner, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Berlusconi said he hopes Forza Italia will be a linchpin of a majority center-right alliance in the European Parliament that could keep nationalist forces at bay. He laid out a vision for a trans-European center-right partnership, including perhaps Salvini and "that crazy head of Orban," a reference to right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Salvini has been wooing Orban for a different political alliance, and the two bonded in Hungary last week over their determination to keep migrants and asylum-seekers out of Europe. He has been working with far-right movements in France, Germany and other northern countries to create a strong populist group in the European Parliament, with the aim of completely reshaping the continent's policies.

Berlusconi said he wants to see the European Union become a world power on a military level and to "assume the role of unifying the West, which today is divided."

If elected to a seat in the European Parliament, it would be Berlusconi's first public office since he was forced to give up his Italian Senate seat due to a ban from a 2012 tax fraud conviction. Citing his good conduct, a court last year ruled that Berlusconi could be a political candidate again.


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