Silvio Berlusconi (C).jpg
Italian former prime minister and leader of centre-right Forza Italia party, Silvio Berlusconi (C) waves as he is discharged from San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, 05 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/Daniel Dal Zennaro

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi left hospital on Tuesday, three weeks after an open-heart operation, sending mixed signals about his willingness to continue engaging in frontline politics.

Berlusconi, who turns 80 in September, checked into the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on June 7 with symptoms of heart failure. He had surgery a week later to replace a faulty aortic valve that was putting his life in danger.

"It was a very, very painful ordeal. I did not expect to experience so much pain. Anyway, I feel a bit better now, two months of rehabilitation await me, and after that I hope to still be useful to Italy and Italians, in some way," he said as he left the clinic.

Wearing a navy blue polo shirt and a black jumper over his shoulders, the normally ebullient Berlusconi spoke slowly and appeared to need support to stand up and walk, as he extended his right arm over the shoulder of an aide.

He said his main preoccupations while in hospital were "pain and not being able to sleep."

Asked if he still felt ready to lead the country, Berlusconi was non-committal. "I hope there will not be any need, but, if so, I hope to have the strength to be able to give some advice," he told reporters.

He displayed a willingness to comment on current affairs, expressing worries about terrorism, Europe's post-Brexit future, and promising to campaign against constitutional reforms proposed by the government and due for a referendum vote in October.

Berlusconi also confirmed that his AC Milan football team would be sold to Chinese buyers, but only on condition that they commit to invest "at least 400 million euros (445 million dollars) in the next two years" to revive the squad's fortunes.

The former premier led Italy in 1994, 2001-06 and 2008-11. He was expelled from parliament and given a six-year ban on holding public office in 2013 after a tax fraud conviction, but remains the head of conservative opposition party Forza Italia.

Health worries have increasingly weighed on his life.

Before the heart operation, he was admitted to the San Raffaele twice in recent months: in December to replace a heart pacemaker, which he has had since 2006, and in March for cataract surgery. His medical history also includes a 1997 operation to remove prostate cancer.

Latest news

Trump-style rhetoric is making world more dangerous, Amnesty says

Divisive and "poisonous" language used by politicians such as US President Donald Trump is putting vulnerable populations at risk and making the whole world a more dangerous place, Amnesty International charged on Wednesday.

Canada soon to begin resettling Iraqi refugees, most of them Yezidis

Canada will resettle 1,200 survivors of the Islamic State campaign to target religious minorities in northern Iraq, Canadian officials announced Tuesday. 

Breitbart editor resigns after release of paedophilia comments

Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial editor at the far-right Breitbart news website, resigned Tuesday after the emergence of recordings in which he appears to defend sexual relationships between young boys and older men.

Trump administration opens door for mass deportations

The US Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork Tuesday for mass deportations of immigrants living illegally in the United States under an executive order by President Donald Trump last month.

Brexit bill: House of Lords says public can change mind on leaving EU

The British public should be able to change their minds on Brexit - just as Prime Minister Theresa May did, the upper chamber of parliament heard Tuesday during a marathon debate on legislation to kick off EU negotiations.

Italian lawmakers, rights activists clash over gay sex club scandal

Gay rights activists and conservative politicians clashed Tuesday after the chief of Italy's anti-discrimination office quit over allegations that money had been authorized for gay sex clubs.

EU countries agree new rules to avoid tax evasion

European Union finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday reached a political agreement on new rules to ensure that multinational corporations do not declare profits in the countries where they pay the least tax but in the countries where they generate it.

Trump condemns "horrible, painful" anti-Jewish incidents

US President Donald Trump condemned a recent spate of threats against Jewish community targets across the United States, during a visit Tuesday to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

FinMin expects Croatia to exit Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Tuesday Croatia could exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring and that it was showing progress in correcting macroeconomic imbalances.

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

Citizens invited to help create Croatian version of Monopoly

A project to create a Croatian edition of Monopoly, in which citizens can participate by submitting proposals and which could become a souvenir for tourists, was presented at a press conference on Tuesday.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.