Rome

Ex-Italian premier says Monti 'married' to centre-left chief

Berlusconi goads out-going premier

Ex-Italian premier says Monti 'married' to centre-left chief

Rome, February 8 - Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday that outgoing Italian premier Mario Monti hoped to be "assistant" to centre-left chief Pier Luigi Bersani whom Monti had "married" after an extended courtship. "After a long flirtation from a distance, Monti and Bersani are finally united in marriage with the blessing of (German Chancellor) Merkel and her (finance) Minister (Wolfgang) Schaeuble. Thus Monti has become a politician like the others and now his biggest aspiration seems to be to become Bersani's assistant," Berlusconi told the television show 'Coffee Break' on Italy's La7 TV channel, the only one not controlled by the State or Berlusconi. Mario Monti replaced Berlusconi as premier in November 2011, when Italy's debt crisis looked in danger of spiralling out of control and the bond spread - a key measure of Italy's borrowing costs - was over 500 points. Berlusconi was pressured to resign and Monti, a respected economist, was given the task of steering Italy from financial catastrophe. Monti, Berlusconi and Bersani are now running in parliamentary elections to be held February 24-25. Monti is running on a reform platform aimed at completing the work his technical government began to relaunch Italy's economy. The Italian bond spread climbed back to 300 points on Thursday after starting the week at just over 260 points. Some analysts have suggested the markets are spooked by the rise in opinion polls of Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, which is now around 5% behind Bersani's centre-left alliance.

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