Written by Gareth Carpenter
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Tuesday, 18 November 2003

image for Berlusconi in 'I quit' shock
Berlusconi: We are family!

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has announced his sudden resignation - to spend more time with his television channels and football team.

In a recorded speech broadcast on his own TV channel Mediaset, Mr Berlusconi shocked the nation by admitting that the strains of political life were getting in the way of the things dearest to his heart.

"Politics was only ever really a hobby for me, but now it's got on top of things and I've come to the stage where I have to say enough is enough," a tired and clearly emotional Mr Berlusconi told record TV audiences. "I felt it was taking over from the simple things in life like coming home at the end of the day, tucking my Mediaset chief executives up in bed and reading them a bedtime story."

He spoke of his frustration at trying to balance the demands of being the leader of a country with what he described as ‘paternal duties'.

"At the end of the day I'm a simple family man," he told the nation. "I was worried that if I didn't take a hold of the situation soon, it could eventually spiral out of control and I would end up losing my loving and faithful multi-media network, newspaper publishing empire, construction companies and chain of supermarkets."

Mr Berlusconi also praised the football club AC Milan, which he hopes to buy back in the near future. He was forced to divest the club on becoming prime minister because of the country's strict laws on conflicts of interest.

"She's been a rock and stayed with me through good times and bad," he said. "I'll never forget what she did for me this year, winning the European Champion's League, despite the fact I was often away from the stadium up to my eyes in work at the office."

The news has prompted tearful scenes all over Italy. In Rome a huge crowd of supporters massed outside the Parliament building and burst into a tearful rendition of KC and the Sunshine Band's classic 70s hit ‘Don't Go.'

However, Mr Berlusconi has allayed fears that his resignation could see him drift out of public life for good.

"Don't worry, you haven't seen the last of me," he promised a news conference. "I can't reveal anything yet but let's just say, I'm working on something."

Speculation is mounting that Mr Berlusconi is hoping to launch a chatshow in the New Year if he can persuade the Mediaset board of directors that he has the nous to become a TV presenter.

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