PARIS (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi quoted fascist dictator Benito Mussolini Thursday as he lamented what he said was his lack of real power as head of the government.
"As prime minister, I have never had the feeling that I was in power," he said at a news conference at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
"Sometimes as a businessman, with 56,000 employees, sometimes I've had the feeling of being able to decide and be in control. But today in a democracy, I am in the service of everyone and anyone can criticize me and perhaps even insult me," he said.
Berlusconi, whose jokes and outspoken comments on topics from sex to religion have often sparked controversy, mused that if power existed, it was not held by government leaders.
"I will dare to quote you a phrase from someone considered a dictator, a great, powerful dictator, Benito Mussolini," he said.
"In his diary, I recently read this phrase. 'They say I have power. It isn't true. Maybe my party officials do. But I don't know. All I can do is say to my horse go right or left. And I have to be happy with that.'"
Berlusconi was criticized by left-wing opponents in 2003 over an interview with British magazine The Spectator in which he said Mussolini was a benign figure who "never killed anyone."
Reporting by James Mackenzie, editing by Mark Trevelyan