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The Italian PrIme Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, at a meeting in Rome on Thursday. AP
European Union Assembly leaders were split going into the meeting, officials said, as Socialists, Greens and Liberal Democrats demanded an official apology to both the German Socialist member, Martin Schulz, and to Parliament as a whole. But many conservatives were opposed.
Alison Suttie, spokeswoman for the European Parliament President, Pat Cox, said the President would try and heal the rifts caused by Mr. Berlusconi's remarks in the legislature on Wednesday.
``President Cox is going to try and lower the pressure, but that at the moment is very optimistic,'' Ms Suttie said. ``Some want an apology from Mr. Schulz ... while others demand one from Berlusconi.''
The meeting came a day after Mr. Berlusconi's remark as he launched his country's leadership of the E.U.
During a question-and-answer session, in which Mr. Schulz alluded to the Italian leader's legal problems, Mr. Berlusconi told Mr. Schulz he would play a perfect ``kapo'' in a film. The German word ``kapo'' is usually taken to mean a concentration camp guard drawn from the ranks of the prisoners.
Mr. Berlusconi, speaking Italian, snapped: ``Mr. Schulz, I know there is a producer in Italy who is making a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you for the role of `kapo.' You'd be perfect.''
His comments caused widespread uproar in the Assembly, as Mr. Berlusconi was heckled, booed and hissed for his comment.
Mr. Berlusconi twice refused Mr. Cox's offer to retract his comments during and after the debate and insisted he had nothing to apologise for. ``If people are not able to understand irony, I am very sorry, that's too bad, but I am not withdrawing what I said with irony,'' Mr. Berlusconi said.
Parliament officials said the Assembly had little power to sanction the Italian Premier, who was member of the European Parliament between 1999-2001.
However, some members demanded Parliament cut off working relations with the Italian Government until an official apology was given.
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