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Berlusconi witness in Mafia trial

Court to announce June 4 if Italy's prime minister must take stand

MILAN — Italy’s prime minister elect Silvio Berlusconi could be asked to give evidence in the trial of his close friend and associate Marcello Dell’Utri for alleged Mafia connections, an Italian court ruled Monday.

The court of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, said it would reconvene Dell’Utri’s trial on June 4 and announce then if Berlusconi would be called to the witness stand.

The Sicilian-born businessman is accused of helping launder Mafia money but not of being a member of the crime organization. According to Mafia sources his contact started in the 1960s and continued until 1995.

Dell’Utri was re-elected to the lower house of parliament in Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party which won May 13’s general elections. He is one of Berlusconi’s oldest and most faithful business partners, and the first to support the tycoon’s political bid in 1993.

In a separate story, French conglom Bouygues, which controls national terrestrial TV channel TF1, is interested in acquiring Berlusconi’s TV group Mediaset, or part of it, French weekly financial mag La Vie Financiere reported Friday.

It joins a list of players including Bertelsmann and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., as the Italo tycoon continues to delay resolving conflicts between his business and political interests. Berlusconi has pledged to introduce legislation to address the problem in his first 100 days in office. He is expected to be sworn in within the next two weeks.

On Thursday Berlusconi’s daughter, Marina, VP of Fininvest, the family holding company which controls assets including Mediaset, said that her father’s decision must take into account the good of all the family’s companies. In the past she has opposed any attempts to sell up