Berlusconi says could abandon bid for PM if Monti runs

AFP , Wednesday 12 Dec 2012

Silvio Berlusconi, 76-year-old Italian tycoon and convicted fraudster, claims he could reconsider his intention to run for Prime Minister if incumbent premier Mario Monti decides to participate in the elections

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday said he could abandon his re-election bid if Prime Minister Mario Monti decided to run in the upcoming election as leader of a broad centre-right coalition.

"If Monti runs for leader, I would take a step back," said Berlusconi, who recently criticised his successor for failing to revive the Italian economy.

Berlusconi added, however, that former commissioner Monti would likely not join a particular party but could instead lead a movement of "moderates".

Berlusconi said he could also be a coordinator of such a coalition without being its candidate or choose to go for some "well-deserved rest".

The comments immediately surprised observers, coming in a week in which Berlusconi and Monti have been clashing at a distance with barbed references to each other's economic records in government.

"I was pushed by my supporters to be the candidate, I did not put myself forward," Berlusconi said.

The 76-year-old tycoon, a convicted fraudster who is on trial for abuse of power and having sex with an underage prostitute, is so far running for election for the sixth time in two decades.

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