ROME - An Italian senator's boast on television that he cheated traffic jams in Rome during a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush by calling an ambulance may cost him a court appearance, officials said on Sunday.

Conservative opposition senator Gustavo Selva risked being late for a TV interview on Saturday because streets around the Senate were blocked for Bush's visit.

So he dialled 118 for an ambulance asking to be rushed to his heart specialist -- giving the TV studio's address.

"I used an old journalist's trick to get here," he boasted on live television.

The emergency services were not amused. They had 600 genuine emergency calls on Saturday and about 50 ambulances standing by as part of the special preparations for the Bush visit, plus the possibility of injuries when anti-Bush protests turned violent.

Health Minister Livia Turco called such behaviour "shameful and irresponsible" and said it would be investigated "to see if this constitutes a crime, either in civil or criminal courts".

"This arrogant stunt could have had tragic consequences if another person had really needed that ambulance," she said.

The incident came a few days after senators were criticised for demanding that their cafeteria in parliament start serving ice-cream, even though the streets around the Senate house some of the Italian capital's most famous ice-cream restaurants.

It also comes to a backdrop of public outcry against the perks and privileges of elected officials, with opinion polls showing the general public has little faith in them.