Intellectuals join anti-Berlusconi rally

The rally called Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to leave office.

Rome: Leading leftist intellectuals Roberto Saviano and Umberto Eco joined a Milan rally on Saturday calling on Silvio Berlusconi to leave office even as Italy`s Prime Minister reaffirmed vows to stay put.

"We are here to defend the honour of Italy, to remind the world that all Italians are not the same," popular novelist Eco told thousands of demonstrators at a Milan concert hall.

Drawing comparisons between Berlusconi and embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he added, jokingly, "the little default is not wanting to step down”.

Greeted like a rock star, anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano for his part declared, "our democracy has been taken hostage”.

He called on the demonstrators "to rebel against an image of a corrupt country" and affirmed of "the right to dream of a cleaner Italy”, at the rally that also featured Italy`s former president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Berlusconi has remained defiant in the face of his latest legal troubles, with judges set to request he stand trial in a case involving a dancer known as "Ruby the Heart-Stealer".

"One cannot give in and I am the example of resistance: for 17 years there have been accusations to send me home but I remain on the job," Berlusconi said early Saturday during phone link-up with a rally of his People of Freedom party (PDL).

The inquiry into Berlusconi`s alleged liaisons with prostitutes -- denied by the Prime Minister -- was first reported last month and has dominated Italian newspapers since then.

Berlusconi`s critics have multiplied their calls for him to leave office and have organised a series of demonstrations including the one in Milan and in Florence, where some 3,000 gathered to defend women`s dignity and protest against his behaviour.

Bureau Report