Rome: Giulio Andreotti was one of postwar Italy`s most powerful men: He helped draft the country`s constitution after World War II, served as its premier seven times and spent 60 years in Parliament.
But the Christian Democrat who was friends with popes and cardinals was also a controversial figure who survived corruption scandals and allegations of aiding the Mafia.
Andreotti was accused of exchanging a "kiss of honor" with the mob`s longtime No. 1 boss and indicted in what was called "the trial of the century" in Palermo. He was eventually cleared.
Still a senator-for-life, Andreotti died today at age 94 after being in poor health recently.
He was hospitalised a year ago for a heart condition. As Italy`s eldest senator, he would have presided over the inaugural session of the new Senate in March, but was not well enough to attend.
In announcing the death, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno called Andreotti "the most representative politician" Italy had known in its recent history. Pier Ferdinando Casini, a centrist political leader, said he was certain that "history will give this statesman a more sober and serious opinion than his detractors made during his life."
President Giorgio Napolitano, at 87 a contemporary of Andreotti, said history would judge his career but he wanted to extend a national salute to a man who represented Italy overseas and in Europe with "exceptional" skill.
Andreotti`s political career was as varied as it was long, with posts covering everything from cinema to sports. Born in 1919, he once noted that he had outlived two other Italian phenomena that developed that same year: Fascism and the precursor of his Christian Democrats, the Italian Popular Party.
"Of all three, only I remain," he said.
Andreotti was well-known for his political acumen, subtle humor and witty allusions. With sharp eyes, thin lips and a stooped figure, he was immediately recognisable to generations of Italians. Friends and foes alike admired his intellectual agility and his grasp of the issues.
Andreotti`s rise in the Italian political scene mirrored the rise of Italy, which was emerging from two decades of Fascist dictatorship under Benito Mussolini. He joined the conservative Christian Democrats, was part of the Constituent Assembly that wrote the Constitution and was elected to Parliament in 1948.
He remained there ever since.
He held a series of Cabinet positions after World War II until he became premier for the first time in 1972. Twenty years later, he finished his last stint as premier.