Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's gaffe-prone prime minister, has again referred to US President Barack Obama as "suntanned", days after being snubbed by Michelle Obama at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Published: 7:29PM BST 27 Sep 2009
"I bring you greetings from a person who is called...a person who is sun-tanned...Barack Obama," the smiling 72-year-old politician told a crowd of cheering supporters in Milan on Sunday.
"You wouldn't believe it, but they go sunbathing at the beach together - his wife is also sun-tanned."
He said his rapport with America's first black president was "easy-going" and described Mr Obama as a "fine man" with a good sense of irony, as the crowd chanted "Silvio, Silvio" and his campaign slogan, "Thank goodness for Silvio".
At the G20 meeting last week, Mrs Obama pointedly chose to shake Mr Berlusconi's hand rather than give him hug and a kiss on the cheek, as she did to other world leaders.
Mrs Obama's reserve may have reflected White House reluctance to appear too cosy with a man who has been dogged since April by scandals over his personal life, including accusations that he "consorts with minors" and that he slept with a high-class prostitute at his private mansion in Rome.
Mr Berlusconi, famed for his year-round tan, sparked international outrage last November when he first described Mr Obama as "sun-tanned".
Later that month he reiterated the remark, saying that anyone who found it racist had no sense of humour and was an "imbecile".
At the weekend rally in Milan, Mr Berlusconi told supporters of his People of Freedom party that his government had scored a number of successes since being elected last year, claiming that he had acted swiftly to tackle the effects of the global economic crisis and ensure that Italy had a more solid banking system than many other countries.
"And we have introduced a new element into Italian politics: morality," said Mr Berlusconi, whose estranged wife, Veronica Lario, 53, has suggested that he is obsessed with chasing glamorous actresses and showgirls young enough to be his grand daughters.