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Long IslandObituaries

Francesco Cossiga, Italian president, dies

ROME - Veteran politician Francesco Cossiga, who led Italy's fight against domestic terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s but resigned after failing to save the life of a politician kidnapped by the Red Brigades, died Tuesday. He was 82.

Cossiga declared himself "politically dead" in 1978 after the Red Brigades leftist terrorist group assassinated his mentor and friend Aldo Moro, the leader of the Christian Democrats and a former premier, two months after kidnapping him.

But Cossiga went on to lead a vigorous political life for several more years, including as prime minister and president of the republic, Italy's highest office.

As president in the mid-1980s, he used the largely ceremonial, head-of-state role to publicly lambaste parliament and the judiciary in what some saw as an effort to spur reform in an increasingly inefficient, moribund postwar system of revolving-door coalition governments.

Often accused of harboring political secrets, Cossiga, a staunch U.S. supporter, eventually admitted involvement in a shady Cold War-era, anti-Communist network known as Gladio.

Many, even his communist foes, remembered him as a civil servant who always put the good of the state before his own. A "deeply saddened" Pope Benedict XVI prayed for him, Vatican Radio said.

Cossiga was born on July 26, 1928, in Sardinia. He was the cousin of Enrico Berlinguer, the late longtime leader of the Italian Communist Party.

After receiving his law degree, Cossiga soon entered the local Christian Democratic Party and rose in its ranks, entering parliament in 1958 and holding his first position in government as defense undersecretary in 1966.- AP

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