Rebellion threatens to topple besieged leader Berlusconi

 
City A.M. Reporter
PRESSURE rose on Italy’s besieged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to quit yesterday, as six former parliamentary loyalists called for a new government and the squabbling cabinet failed to agree an urgent economic reform programme.

European leaders have tried to push Berlusconi into bringing the country’s finances under control to avoid exacerbating the euro crisis.

The rebel deputies, three of whom have already left Berlusconi’s crumbling coalition, wrote to the premier saying Italy needed a “new political phase and a new government”.

Berlusconi has repeatedly rejected calls to stand aside and make way for an interim government, saying the only alternative would be to hold early elections next spring, a step he says would be irresponsible while the crisis continues.

The government could fall next Tuesday if rebels join the opposition in a vote to sign off on the 2010 budget.

President Giorgio Napolitano yesterday said the ruling coalition had insisted Berlusconi could continue, and that there was no alternative to him.