Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86

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This file photo shows former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (front) attending a press conference at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, capital of Italy, on April 12, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi died on Monday at the age of 86 at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, the press office of his political party Forza Italia confirmed.

He was admitted to hospital on Friday for scheduled health check-ups related to his chronic leukemia, according to the hospital.

Berlusconi suffered from a serious case of COVID-19 in 2020, and had also overcome a heart surgery and survived prostate cancer.

The billionaire media tycoon was a dominant figure in Italian politics for three decades. Berlusconi headed four separate Italian governments as prime minister between 1994 and 2011, and was a member of his country's Senate.

Forza Italia, the political party he founded, is a junior partner in the current Italian government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Once a cruise ship singer, Berlusconi rose to national prominence as a property developer in the 1960s. He also left his mark on the country's media sector, where he founded Mediaset, the country's largest privately-owned broadcaster. He leveraged that position to acquire Italy's football club AC Milan in 1986, and then to become a vocal critic of the country's political establishment in the early 1990s.

Berlusconi's death also elicited condolences from leaders around the world. In a release, Italy's President Sergio Mattarella said that Berlusconi "made a mark on the history of our Republic" and was a "protagonist for long periods of Italian politics and the institutions of the Republic."

Berlusconi's state funeral is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at the Milan Cathedral. Mattarella is expected to attend, according to his office.

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