Did Russian President Vladimir Putin offer former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi a job as economy minister? Berlusconi says it was just a joke and Putin says any support was "metaphorical."

A boast by Berlusconi that his old friend Putin had offered to make him economy minister made headlines around the world this week.

But Berlusconi spokeswoman Deborah Bergamini says he was just joking, and Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Putin wasn't really offering the Italian a job.

In comments carried by Interfax news agency Thursday, Peskov said Putin was offering only "metaphorical support" — "not as a formal offer to occupy any official post."

He notes that foreigners cannot work in the Russian government.