Italy's disgraced former prime minister Bettino Craxi, who fled Italy for Tunisia to escape corruption charges, died of a heart attack Jan. 19.

Mr. Craxi, 65, a former Socialist prime minister, died in the Tunisian Mediterranean resort town of Hammamet, 40 miles south of Tunis, where he had lived in exile since 1994.

The tall, burly and bespectacled politician, who had a kidney removed in a Tunisian hospital in November, had wanted to return to Italy. His family accused the Italian authorities of hounding him to death.

"My father did not die, he was killed. They killed him," his daughter, Stefania Craxi told ANSA news agency by telephone from Tunisia. She was the only family member at her father's bedside when he died about 5 p.m. local time.

She said his body would not be returned to Italy.

"My father will stay here in Tunisia. This is his homeland now," she said. His son, Bobo, was flying to Tunisia from Sicily.

Both houses of Parliament, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, suspended their sessions for 10 minutes on hearing of the news of Mr. Craxi's death.

Mr. Craxi, Italy's prime minister from 1983 to 1987, suffered from diabetes and other health problems.

When Mr. Craxi was premier in 1984, he presided over a delicate renegotiation of a 1929 treaty regulating relations between Italy and the Holy See.

This included a major concession from the Vatican to revise the so-called Concordat, eliminating Roman Catholicism as Italy's official state religion.

Former foreign minister Gianni De Michelis, a Socialist who was one of Mr. Craxi's closest aides, also expressed bitterness over the reluctance of authorities to allow him home.

"[I am] bitter over the `death sentence' abroad imposed on Craxi in the past months," he told reporters.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi effectively closed the door on Mr. Craxi's return when he said every citizen had to abide by the laws of the country.

His comments were understood to mean that Mr. Craxi would have to answer to the courts if he returned.

Despite plaudits from some political quarters for Mr. Craxi's achievements, he will be most remembered for the corruption scandals he was mired in.

An Italian court convicted him in absentia of involvement in illegal financing of political parties, which was at the heart of huge corruption scandals that felled the political old guard in the early 1990s.

He was accused of accepting millions of dollars in illegal funds for the Socialist Party, which at its high point had won about 15 percent of the Italian vote in the mid- to late 1980s.

The Socialist Party is now one of the smallest parties in Italy, commanding a negligible vote.