Days ahead of a key run-off vote for mayor of Milan, Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi warned the opposition centre-left would turn his hometown into an "Islamic" city overrun by Roma Gypsies and other immigrants.
"Milan can't become, on the eve of the Expo 2015, an Islamic city, a city of Gypsies, full of Roma camps and swamped by foreigners, a city that gives voting rights to immigrants in municipal elections," Berlusconi said on Monday.
"I don't think that we Milanese consider it a priority to build a beautiful mosque," Berlusconi said in a message posted to the website of his ruling conservative People of Freedom (PdL) party.
The leader of Italy's largest centre-left opposition Democratic Party Pierluigi Bersani met Berlusconi's inflammatory remarks with an ironic putdown.
"Your words are laughable..you're going to need to wear a burqa to avoid people recognising you in the street," he jibed.