Is Berlusconi Back?

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MILAN: The political future of former Italian premier Silvio Belusconi was at stake as his corruption trial began Wendesday in Milan. Berlusconi, the media magnate who lost the premiership after seven months amid conflict-of-interest charges, is attempting a comeback just as the trial gets underway. Premier Lamberto Dini resigned last week, and President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro is meeting with potential candidates to suceed him. Berlusconi meets with Scalfaro on Friday. TIME's Greg Burke reports from Rome: "This is a do-or-die situation for Belusconi, who wants the premiership back. We have no idea how strong a case the prosecutors have. The question is whether he paid them off willingly, or was forced to by the tax inspectors, who have a reputation for extorting payments. If he does not get convicted, he still will have a lot of political life left. Politically, the country is split in two, and he represents basically the right-of-center constituency that has a good chance to win the next election." Berlusconi and five others are charged with paying $237,000 in bribes to tax inspectors. Each defendant faces one to three years on prison.