G8 leaders forced to bunk together in Italy

Leaders of world’s industrialised powers shares housing


G8 leaders, usually sealed off from their peers at summits, found themselves living side by side at the gathering that ended Friday -- and the change of surroundings served as an icebreaker.

In the absence of any exclusive hotels around the town of L'Aquila, which was devastated by an April earthquake, the leaders of the world's industrialised powers found themselves billeted in police barracks and some even had to share accommodation.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for example took up digs in the same block as his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy. The Kremlin chief occupied the first two floors while Sarkozy's delegation was on the two upper levels.

Medvedev himself appeared full of bonhomie at the summit, referring to U.S. President Barack Obama by his first name.

A member of the British delegation said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown felt as if he was back in a university dormitory while he shared a block with the Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso.

"It was very basic, like a hall of residence," said the source.

Brown, criticized for his often stern exterior, appeared to be in high spirits throughout much of the last three days and was often seen laughing and joking with his counterparts.

Berlusconi in great form

Their host, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, had been at the center of increasingly lurid headlines in the lead-up to the summit.

But Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the 72-year-old had been in great form and had been a generous host.

Harper also made light of the sex scandals trailing, saying his Italian counterpart was remarkably "energetic."

"Like Prime Minister Berlusconi, I have many weaknesses, but they are not the same," he told laughing reporters at the end of the summit.

The Italian premier prepared for the summit amid a storm over his love life, after photographs of topless young women attending parties in his villa surfaced along with allegations of relations with escort girls and teenagers.