BERLIN - The German government on Monday dismissed as "absurd" remarks by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi about the Holocaust which have sparked outrage across Europe.
"This is what I will say for the German government on the subject: the claims that were reported are so absurd that the government won't comment on them," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.
Campaigning Saturday for the European elections in May, Berlusconi, 77, claimed that Germans denied the existence of Nazi concentration camps.
He made the comments while attacking a longtime nemesis, German Socialist Martin Schulz, who is current president of the European Parliament and the centre-left candidate in the race to lead the EU Commission.
Jean-Claude Juncker, Schulz's conservative challenger, called Monday on Berlusconi to withdraw the comments, saying they "sickened" him.
Seibert also declined to comment directly on a slogan used by Berlusconi's Forza Italia: "More Italy, Less Germany", stressing only the strong ties between Berlin and Rome.
"Germany works extremely closely and in a spirit of friendship with Italy on the European level and that will remain the case," he said.
Several German officials slammed Berlusconi's comments at the weekend, calling them "unspeakable" and "outrageous".
The disgraced media magnate had bridled while in power at German demands for the eurozone's debt-mired countries to sharply curb their spending as a condition for European bailouts.