WESTERN LEADERS rounded on Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, yesterday after he undermined the unity of the coalition against terrorism by asserting the superiority of Western civilisation over Islam.
European politicians publicly disowned Mr Berlusconi's apparent prediction of a clash of civilisations while much of the Arab world reacted with anger. Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the 22- nation Arab League, said the Italian Prime Minister had "crossed the limits of reason," adding: "We don't believe there is a superior civilisation and, if he said so, he's utterly mistaken."
In Tehran, Mohammad Khatami, the reformist Iranian President, warned of "evil hands" trying to use the deadly attacks on the United States to create a clash of civilisations.
America and its European allies have been at pains to stress that the coalition they are assembling is designed to combat terrorism and does not equate the actions of fanatics with the views of a wider Muslim world. Contradicting this carefully co-ordinated message, Mr Berlusconi argued that Western democracies observed superior standards to those of Muslim countries. After talks in Berlin with Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, on Wednesday, Mr Berlusconi said: "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights."
He was then quoted as comparing Islamic terrorism to the anti- globalisation …