Rome

Monti says Berlusconi comments 'not a threat'

Italian premier says he was asked to take his position

Monti says Berlusconi comments 'not a threat'

Rome, October 29 - Italian Premier Mario Monti shrugged off questions about ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's threat to withdraw his support and the government's ruling majority with it. "The threats to withdraw confidence in this government can not be made because we (the cabinet) do not experience them as a threat. We were asked to make a contribution in a difficult moment for this country. We can not call something a threat that would take nothing away from us," said Mario Monti at a press conference following a bilateral summit with Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy in Madrid on Monday. Asked whether he thought Monday's rise in the Italian bond spread was due to Berlusconi's threat, Monti responded, "I hadn't thought about it. Now I will reflect on it". The spread between interest rates on Italian and German bonds is an important gauge of the market's confidence in Italy's ability to pay down its enormous debt. The higher the spread, the shakier Italy's perceived prospects are, and the spread shot to 355 basis points during trading on Monday, after having closed at 336 points on Friday. Monti leads a technical - not elected - government that was appointed last November to guide Italy through a time of economic and political crisis. Ex-premier Berlusconi gave Monti the support of his centre-right People of Freedom Party (PdL). Without the PdL, Monti could loose his parliament majority. Berlusconi made his threat to withdraw support during a Saturday press conference in which he protested his criminal conviction for accounting fraud and tax evasion as an unjust attack.

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