In power to 120 years old: Putin, Berlusconi joke at summit

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 12 2010 04:30 PM | Updated as of Sep 13 2010 12:30 AM

MOSCOW – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi cracked jokes about hanging on to power to well past 100, during a relaxed meeting in Russia, TV pictures showed Saturday.

Berlusconi, 73, was visiting Putin at his residence at Novo Ogarevo, near Moscow.

The NTV station reported that during a forum at Iaroslavl, north of the capital, Berlusconi had said Friday he was going to finance research into dramatically extending life expectancy.

"So we're going to live until 120?" Putin asked him with a smile, as the two men relaxed in armchairs.

"It seems so, yes," Berlusconi replied, according to the Russian-language translation offered by NTV.

"But that would be an average age, mind. I'm told that leaders will have an even longer life," he added.

"So we will be prime ministers until we are 120 years old?" Putin, 57, whose country is near the bottom of the world's life expectancy league, quipped.

Berlusconi said he thought not, because that involved a lot of work and they were getting tired.

He went on to complain that he had not had a day of holiday that year, before commiserating with Putin over the event-packed years that he had endured.

Forest fires ravaged about a million hectares (2.5 million acres) in Russia in recent months, destroying whole villages and leaving more than 50 people dead, according to official tallies.

Putin responded to growing public discontent over the scale of the disaster by touring the country and even appeared at the controls of a plane used to dump water on the fires.

Berlusconi himself has found his political position weakened after former ally Gianfranco Fini quit the ruling coalition, depriving the prime minister of his imposing parliamentary majority.

Putin, who has not ruled out making a bid to return to the Russian presidency, has for years had good relations with Berlusconi, who has made several private visits to Russia and has praised Putin's leadership.