Rome

Monti drops impartial front, fires on left and right

Outgoing premier hits out at 'volatile' Berlusconi

Monti drops impartial front, fires on left and right

Rome, January 3 - Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti on Thursday fully shed the front of diplomacy and impartiality used up to now during his emergency technocrat government and opened fire on the right and left as he campaigns to keep office in next month's general elections. Former European commissioner Monti, who is standing on a reform platform, hit back at Silvio Berlusconi after his predecessor accused him of lacking credibility. "Berlusconi has been volatile in both his personal and political affairs recently," Monti told Rai television. Berlusconi has alternated of late between furious criticism of Monti and praise for the former European commissioner. Last month Berlusconi offered to withdraw his bid for a fourth term as premier if Monti agreed to lead a broad centre-right coalition at the elections. On Wednesday, however, he accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray that he made when he was appointed premier in November 2011 after Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister by Italy's debt crisis. "Monti does not have credibility any more," Berlusconi said. "He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise - he said he would not take advantage of the promotion". Berlusconi has also accused Monti's emergency government of unelected technocrats of being too "German-centric" in pursuing austerity policies. Monti also responded to this criticism on Thursday, saying Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party was increasingly adopting extreme positions on economic affairs. Monti blamed the new direction on former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, an academic, economist and a senior PdL spokesman on economic affairs. "From the point of view of the general economy, Brunetta is taking the PdL to extreme, sectarian positions with the authoritativeness of a professor and a certain academic stature," Monti said. Monti also had ammunition for the Democratic Party (PD), which he said should silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks. "(PD leader Pier Luigi) Bersani should be brave and silence the conservative part of his party a little," Monti said. Monti said his government's attempts to introduce structural economic reforms had been hampered by opposition from Italy's biggest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL, which has strong ties with the PD, and from Stefano Fassina, the PD spokesman on economic affairs. He also mentioned the left-wing SEL party, with which the PD has formed an electoral alliance. Monti suggested that he might be able to govern with the PD if the elections failed to produce a clear winner and if the centre-left party dropped its coalition with the SEL. "Cutting off the (extreme) wings is a good thing," Monti said when asked about a possible post-election pact with Bersani. "The real contest is between those who want to conserve existing structures and those who want to innovate a little more". The former European commissioner said a possible name for his election platform could be Con Monti per l'Italia (With Monti for Italy). He added that he hoped Bersani will present convincing arguments in election campaign but still lose. Monti also hit back at Fassina's claim that he would be at the helm of a list of elitist "Rotary Club" candidates. "I don't know what the Monti list will be yet. Anyway I've always fought against lobbies," Monti said. "I suggest Fassina updates himself a little".

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