ROME -- Giulio Andreotti, the seven-time Italian prime minister who oversaw his country's economic boom but was tainted by accusations of ties to the Mafia, died in Rome on Monday, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. He was 94.
After becoming a junior government minister at age 28 in 1947, following World War II, Andreotti never left politics, serving as prime minister for the first time in 1972-73 and the last time between 1989 and 1992, before becoming a senator for life.
A talented dealmaker with an ironic sense of humor, Andreotti stayed close to the center of power for decades, working to defend Italy's Christian Democrats as the Communist Party gained votes, and cultivating ties with Arab governments as Italy’s revolving-door governments came and went.
Nicknamed "Beelzebub" by his detractors for his backroom politicking, Andreotti famously denied the idea that power wears one out, asserting instead that “power wears out those who don’t have it.”
He enjoyed close ties to the Vatican and was nicknamed “the permanent secretary of state of the Vatican” by former Italian President Francesco Cossiga.
While prime minister in 1978, Andreotti refused to negotiate with leftist Red Brigade terrorists who kidnapped Christian Democrat party leader Aldo Moro. After 55 days in captivity, Moro was shot and killed.
After the Christian Democrat party collapsed in the early 1990s amid a torrent of corruption scandals, Andreotti’s fortunes also waned when he was accused by a Mafia turncoat of meeting and exchanging kisses with Toto Riina, the head of Sicily’s organized-crime network. The Christian Democrats were suspected of cultivating ties with the mob to win key votes on the island.
Andreotti was also put on trial for allegedly ordering the murder of a journalist who had threatened to publish details of his Mafia links. He was convicted but that verdict was overturned on appeal. Allegations of Mafia ties after 1980 were also thrown out. In 2004, a court ruled that he had maintained links with mob bosses up until 1980, but the statute of limitations on such charges had run out.
In 2008, a film made about Andreotti's life, "Il Divo," won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Andreotti reportedly walked out on the film, which tackled the murkier allegations made against him.
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