Berlusconi dozes off as country falls to pieces

The Italian PM had to be nudged twice by officials as he was caught napping during the G20 summit talks

World leaders looked on in horror as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi fell asleep while they discussed how to stop Italy becoming the next victim of the eurozone crisis yesterday.

During G20 summit talks in France, the 75-year-old twice had to be nudged by officials to wake him up.

Berlusconi dozed off as leaders including US President Barack Obama, Britain's PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the Italian leader to do more to save his country from bankruptcy.

Frustrated by his dithering, they humiliated Berlusconi by effectively forcing him to allow International Monetary Fund inspectors to check Italy's books to prevent it going the same way as Greece.

A diplomat at the talks said, 'There is widespread concern that Berlusconi is not in control of events in Italy. He fell asleep twice during the talks. It caused considerable alarm among his officials. They had to wake him up by giving him a nudge. Other leaders sitting around the table couldn't help but notice.'

Berlusconi later produced an angry outburst against the single currency, saying, "Italians have been impoverished since the introduction of the euro."

Army of enemies
As Berlusconi was nodding off in Cannes, his growing army of political enemies were meeting to plot his downfall, and yesterday thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital to protest against his government.

Protesters filled one of Rome's main squares yesterday as they called for Berlusconi to stand down.

They demanded a transitional government ahead of a round of elections.

The international community increasingly fears that the Berlusconi government is too weak to push through the savage spending cuts needed to cut the country's debts and get the economy back on track.

The collapse of Italy's economy -- the third largest in the eurozone -- would have a catastrophic impact on the world economy, and other countries would struggle to raise sufficient funds to mount a rescue.

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