Silvio Berlusconi is facing a row with the Muslim world over his plans to appoint a member of the far-Right to his cabinet.
Roberto Calderoli, 52, a senior member of the Northern League, enraged Muslims two years ago during the row over a set of Danish cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed. He appeared on television wearing a T-shirt printed with one of the cartoons. The Italian consulate in Libya was set on fire and 11 people died in riots.
Mr Calderoli has also threatened to defile the proposed site of a mosque in Padua by walking a pig over the ground. When Italy beat France in the 2006 World Cup, he said France had “sacrificed its identity by fielding niggers, Muslims and communists”.
Despite the controversies, which forced him to resign as a minister for reform in 2006, Mr Calderoli is likely to get another job when Mr Berlusconi picks his cabinet because of the strong results obtained by the Northern League in the general election.
Saif Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, said the appointment would have “catastrophic consequences” for trade between Italy and Libya. Italy is Libya’s largest European trading partner, and an importer of Libyan oil.
Franco Frattini, who is likely to become foreign minister, promised that Mr Berlusconi would have a “dialogue” with Islamic countries before cabinet appointments.