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Obituaries

Giulio Andreotti, Italy’s former minister, dies at 94

Mr. Andreotti was acquitted twice in a lengthy case dubbed by the Italian press ‘‘the trial of the century.’’ Arguably among Italy’s most important statesmen.

AP Photo/Sandro Pace

Mr. Andreotti was acquitted twice in a lengthy case dubbed by the Italian press ‘‘the trial of the century.’’ Arguably among Italy’s most important statesmen.

ROME — Giulio Andreotti personified the nation he helped shape, the good and the bad.

One of Italy’s most important postwar figures, he helped draft the country’s constitution after World War II, served seven times as prime minister, and spent 60 years in Parliament.

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But the Christian Democrat who was friends with popes and cardinals was also a controversial figure who survived corruption scandals and allegations of aiding the Mafia: Mr. Andreotti was accused of exchanging a ‘‘kiss of honor’’ with the mob’s longtime top boss and was indicted in what was called ‘‘the trial of the century’’ in Palermo.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti, left, and Sen. Ted Edward Kennedy shake hands during their meeting in Rome in 1987.

AP Photo/Giulio Broglio

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti, left, and Sen. Ted Edward Kennedy shake hands during their meeting in Rome in 1987.

He was eventually cleared, but his legacy was forever marred.

Still clinging to his last official title, senator for life, Mr. Andreotti died Monday at age 94 after an extended period of poor health that included a hospitalization for a heart ailment.

Mr. Andreotti grew more stooped with age, and infirmity kept him from what few official duties remained, such as opening the inaugural session of the new Senate in March, a privilege reserved for the eldest serving member that fell this time to the next-in-line.

Mr. Andreotti, a key player in the Christian Democratic Party that dominated politics for nearly half a century, helped bring prosperity to what was once one of Europe’s poorest countries. When a corruption scandal flushed out the old political guard in the 1990s, marking the end of the first Italian Republic, he survived. But he lost political clout after he became a senator for life in 1991, an appointment that freed him from electoral cycles but also deprived him of capital in the backroom deal-making that helped create his reputation as a Machiavellian politician. And so, Italy entered the so-called second republic, characterized by stalemates and infighting and dominated by other men, such as Silvio Berlusconi.

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Arguably among Italy’s most important statesmen, having also served eight times as defense minister and five times as foreign minister, Mr. Andreotti will be buried with a small private Mass, not a state funeral befitting his contributions to the nation. The choice was made by his family, according to Italian news reports.

Mr. Andreotti’s political career was as varied as it was long, with posts covering everything from cinema to sports. Born in 1919, he once noted that he had outlived two other Italian phenomena that emerged that year: fascism and the precursor of his Christian Democrats, the Italian Popular Party.

‘‘Of all three, only I remain,’’ he said.

Mr. Andreotti (left) met with then US President Richard Nixon in 1973.

AFP PHOTO-/AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Andreotti (left) met with then US President Richard Nixon in 1973.

Mr. Andreotti was well known for his political acumen, subtle humor, and witty allusions. With sharp eyes, thin lips, and a stooped figure, he was immediately recognizable to generations of Italians. Friends and foes alike admired his intellectual agility and his grasp of the issues.

Mr. Andreotti’s rise in the Italian political scene mirrored the rise of Italy, which was emerging from two decades of fascist dictatorship under Benito Mussolini. He joined the conservative Christian Democrats, was part of the assembly that wrote the constitution, and was elected to Parliament in 1948. He remained there ever since.

He held a series of Cabinet positions after World War II until he became premier for the first time in 1972. Twenty years later, he finished his last stint as premier.

Although staunchly pro-American and a firm supporter of Italy’s NATO membership, Mr. Andreotti was the first Christian Democrat to accept Communist support, even if indirect, in one of his governments. The Cabinet that was formed after big Communist gains in the 1976 election needed the Communists and other leftists to abstain, rather than cast no votes, during parliamentary votes.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell called Mr. Andreotti a ‘‘friend to the United States’’ who ably represented Italy in trans-Atlantic relations, but said he would leave it to historians and the Italian people to judge his legacy.

By the early 1990s, a vast anticorruption drive led by Italian prosecutors, the ‘‘Clean Hands’’ inquiry, swept Parliament and hobbled most political parties. Mr, Andreotti’s Christian Democrats were among them, but the scandal did not touch him personally and he managed to stay on as premier until an election in 1992.

Soon, however, an even more damaging accusation would hit Mr. Andreotti. In 1993, a Mafia informer told prosecutors that Mr, Andreotti had been involved in the 1979 slaying of Mino Pecorelli, a muckraking journalist killed in a mob-style execution in Rome by four shots from a pistol with a silencer.

Pecorelli’s articles had often targeted Mr. Andreotti, along with a range of public figures. Mr. Andreotti was sometimes referred to in print as ‘‘The Godfather.’’

The prosecution argued that the Mafia killed Pecorelli at the behest of Mr. Andreotti, who allegedly feared that the reporter had dug up compromising information. Mr. Andreotti has always denied the charges, saying he was targeted by mobsters who were trying to get even for his crackdowns on organized crime.

The lengthy case, dubbed by the Italian press ‘‘the trial of the century.’’ resulted in an acquittal in 1999; a shocking conviction and a sentence of 24 years in prison by an appeals court in November 2002; and, in the third and final judgment a year later, another acquittal.

‘‘Some might have hoped I wouldn’t get here, but here I am, thanks to God,’’ Mr. Andreotti, then 84, said at the time of the final ruling.

In a separate case during the same years, Mr. Andreotti stood trial in Palermo on charges that he colluded with the Mafia. But he was cleared in that case, too.

A devout Roman Catholic, Mr. Andreotti kept solid ties to the Vatican during his political career.

Mr. Andreotti was married to Livia Danese. He leaves his wife, their four children, and their grandchildren.

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