Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi threw out the protocol rule book on Saturday, missing NATO ceremonies and failing to greet his hosts because he was so engrossed in a phone call.
A source in Berlusconi's office said the Italian leader had been doing NATO business, trying to convince Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to accept Europe's candidate for the next head of the military alliance.
Berlusconi was speaking intensely into his mobile phone when he arrived for the start of a second day of a NATO summit and instead of walking up the red carpet to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel he carried on his conversation.
A bemused-looking Merkel continued to welcome other arriving leaders, shrugging her shoulders at one point.
After a long while she gave up on Berlusconi and headed across the Rhine river with all the other dignitaries where French President Nicolas Sarkozy was waiting in a carefully choreographed reception symbolising unity within the alliance.
Berlusconi remained on the German side of the river, missed a subsequent group photograph as well as a minute's silence in honour of NATO soldiers killed in action.
He finally joined the 27 other NATO heads of state and government for a second group photo and appeared to explain to Merkel and Sarkozy what had delayed him for so long.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the front-runner to replace the outgoing NATO secretary-general, but Turkey has objected, criticising the Dane's handling of a row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that offended Muslims.
"From this morning Prime Minister Berlusconi has been in contact with Turkey holding direct talks with prime minister (Erdogan) to unblock the negotiations," a source close to Berlusconi said, without giving further details.
Erdogan is back home in Turkey. Turkish President Abdullah Gul is representing their country at the NATO gathering.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Nisan 2009, 13:24