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Berlusconi snoops on G8

'Don't tell anyone, or they will all want it'

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The G8 summit is meant to be an informal and secret meeting between heads of states assisted by one official known as a sherpa.

Throughout the event's history this privacy has been respected - no notes are taken and proceedings are not recorded. Except this year.

A secret audio link is relaying the conversations between the G8 leaders to a room filled with Italian officials. The purpose of this bug is apparently to improve the advice given to G8 chairman and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi, according to the FT.

A memo from one of the organisers of the conference, and obtained by the pink paper, said: "Pay attention not to tell the other delegations about our facility, otherwise they will all want it and that is not possible." Some organisers were concerned that this amounted to spying.

A spokesman for the scandal-struck Italian PM denied there were any listening devices installed. He said the only form of communication was the digital pens used by the sherpas. He also denied that an Italian TV host favoured by Berlusconi as his preferred way to explain his model-filled private life was also listening to discussions via the link.

The group, initially made up of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, the UK first met in response to the economic crisis in 1975. Canada joined two years later and the Soviet Union got involved in 1991. The European Union is also represented, meaning it should really be called the G9. ®

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