Silvio Berlusconi could dodge prosecution

Measure would eliminate three cases against him

ROME -- The Italian cabinet on Friday approved a bill that will give Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution while he is in office, a move that would effectively eliminate three pending cases against the 71-year-old media tycoon.

The measure must still be approved by parliament, where Berlusconi's allies hold a comfortable majority. Berlusconi said Friday that the law would give him the "tranquility" to govern, arguing that opponents have used the courts to limit him since he entered politics in 1994.

If it becomes law, it will grant immunity to four figures: the prime minister, the president and the speaker of each house of pParliament.

Berlusconi's current term as prime minister lasts until 2013, a year after the expiration of the statute of limitations on the last of the cases against him -- charges of collusion between Berlusconi's Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI during his last term in office.

Other charges against Berlusconi include graft, influence peddling and bribery.

A similar law was ruled unconstitutional in 2004, but ministers said this version would not meet the same fate because previous objections were "taken into account" in the way this version was written.