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Italy’s prime minister reportedly has drawn criticism from Iran over implicitly comparing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler.

Silvio Berlusconi made the remarks Tuesday in Paris, where he received an award from Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal in France.

”We must all be extremely wary of the madness of those who say, even if only for domestic political reasons, that Israel must be wiped off the world map,” Berlusconi said, referring to comments made last year by Ahmadinejad that inferred he would like to see Israel destroyed.

Referring to Hitler, he said, ”We don’t believe such things are real, but there has already been a certain gentleman who started off as a democrat but who went on to do what he did.”

On Wednesday, the Italian news agency ADNKronos reported that an Iranian lawmaker warned that Italy’s relations with Iran could suffer because of Berlusconi’s statements as well as visits by the Iranian dissident Maryam Rajavi to Italy.

At the awards ceremony, Berlusconi reiterated his support for Israel.

”I’ve always been, I would say naturally, a friend of Israel,” he said. ”In my childhood I had Jewish friends who I loved and who loved me back. Then I visited Auschwitz and in that moment I felt Israeli, too.”

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