di Riccardo D'Andrea
Rome, December 27 - Silvo Berlusconi and his allies on Thursday attacked caretaker Premier Mario Monti for his move to lead a centrist alliance in the upcoming general election. Berlusconi, who was forced to resign as prime minister 13 months ago amid an enormous political and financial crisis and recently announced he would bid for a fourth term, slammed Monti on national television and promised to abolish a hated tax. Berlusconi told state television Rai 1's morning chat show that Monti and his caretaker government had been "crushed" by political pressure from the rest of the eurozone and set Italy's policies accordingly. He said he had a better reputation and higher status among other political leaders than Monti has, and also repeated a promise to abolish a new and hated property tax. Berlusconi, and his followers in the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, went on the attack after Monti said in a Twitter message Christmas night that it was useless for Italians to "complain," but instead they should "take action". "Together, we have saved Italy from disaster," Monti wrote. He added that Italy needed a "continued renewal" of politics. Monti resigned after the key vote on the 2013 budget law in parliament last Friday and on Sunday posted on the Internet a reform agenda, after saying he might lead forces who endorse him for Italy's upcoming general election due in late February. That infuriated his centre-right political opponents in Berlusconi's PdL. "Monti did not save Italy, he merely reaped the merits of four years of work by Berlusconi", claimed Gianfranco Rotondi, a PdL member. Anna Maria Bernini, also of the PDL, said it was shocking that Monti "can present himself as a saviour after bringing the country to recession, taking all the merit (for successes) and attributing all the disasters to others". Monti has been praised by international financial markets but has disappointed many Italians with deep budget cuts, tax increases, and reforms designed to help improve Italy's finances which had raised a Greece-style default risk when Berlusconi stepped down in Monti's favour in November 2011.