Rome

Monti, Berlusconi on collision course, says Financial Times

Bersani 'will bid to balance EU fiscal discipline with growth'

Monti, Berlusconi on collision course, says Financial Times

Rome, December 27 - Centrist politicians in Italy are ''rallying behind'' Premier Mario Monti's offer to lead an alliance into February elections, Britain's respected Financial Times newspaper reported Thursday. And that, it says, is setting the stage for a confrontation between Monti and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in his attempt to return to power. The newspaper, quoting political sources, says that Monti, who was appointed technocrat premier 13 months ago, was scheduled to meet with prospective coalition partners on Thursday to discuss strategy and candidate lists. Monti, who is already assured a seat in parliament as a life senator, published a 25-page political manifesto on the Internet during the Christmas holidays. It has drawn endorsements from a civic movement led by Ferrari chief Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and small centrist parties, including Pier Ferdinando Casini's Catholic UDC, says the newspaper. A few other politicians from mainstream parties have also backed Monti, who is expected to be joined by several of his cabinet colleagues including Corrado Passera, his industry minister. The Financial Times is also watching Democratic Party chief Pier Luigi Bersani closely for clues about what kind of government he might form after the elections on February 24-25. In recent articles, it describes Bersani, who leads the main centre-left party, as the front runner in the campaign. And it quotes Bersani as saying he would be willing to give more power to Brussels over Italian government spending in exchange for greater freedom from the European Union to give key Italian economic sectors a boost. ''I am ready to discuss - if it will be my turn to run the country - how to strengthen the mechanism of fiscal discipline to monitor national budgets in exchange for new policies aimed at stimulating the economy,'' Bersani told the Financial Times.

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