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    Putin, Berlusconi to meet in Sardinia in on April 17

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Silvio Berlusconi, newly re-elected as Italian premier, in Sardinia on April 17 and 18, a Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, April 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Silvio Berlusconi, newly re-elected as Italian premier, in Sardinia on April 17 and 18, a Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday.

    "After his visit to Libya, Vladimir Putin will pay a working visit to Italy, where he will meet with Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the People of Freedom party," Alexei Gromov said.

    The meeting will come weeks before Putin steps down as president to make way for his hand-picked successor, president-elect Dmitry Medvedev. Putin and Berlusconi met on numerous occasions during the Italian tycoon's last five years in office, from 2001 to 2006.

    During Italy's weekend election to both houses of parliament, Berlusconi's party took 340 seats in the 630-seat lower house, the Chamber of Deputies against 239 for center-left rival Walter Veltroni. Berlusconi will command a 41-seat majority over Veltroni's Democratic Party in the upper house, the Senate.

    Berlusconi, 71, controls most of Italy's media through his company Mediaset, and owns a diverse business empire that includes the soccer club AC Milan.

    Berlusconi will now face a major challenge in turning round Italy's economic slowdown, with the International Monetary Fund projecting almost zero growth for Italy this year.

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