Italy Senate VP rejects resignation calls for racist slur against black minister, apologizes

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Italy's Senate vice president has rejected calls for his resignation for a racist slur against Italy's first black Cabinet minister, saying he was sorry and would send her a bouquet of flowers.

Roberto Calderoli, a leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, has been criticized by Italy's president, premier and a host of ministers and lawmakers for comparing the Congolese-born integration minister, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan. Premier Enrico Letta's Democratic Party called for his resignation, and the premier himself warned the League to put an end to such racist remarks or risk a political confrontation.

Calderoli asked the Senate to accept his apologies Tuesday and said he would have resigned had a majority of lawmakers asked for it. But he said no such majority had materialized.