Rome

Monti, Berlusconi spar over government record

Ex-premier accuses successor of 'dirty trick'

Monti, Berlusconi spar over government record

Rome, February 19 - Outgoing Premier Mario Monti and his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi resumed their sparring on Tuesday after the ex-premier accused his rival in upcoming elections of a 'dirty trick' for saying Italy had been on the verge of collapse when he was forced out of government in late 2011. ''How can recent history be rewritten in that way?'' asked Monti. ''It is a history that belongs to everyone and that is still before everyone's eyes''. The economist and former EU commissioner for competition also said ''proposals made by those who think Italians don't remember anything'' were not worthy of comment, in reference to a campaign pledge by Berlusconi to scrap the new IMU property tax on primary residences and give the money back. ''The introduction of IMU was a necessary measure, including on primary residences as already foreseen by the Berlusconi government,'' he said. ''Monti is a disaster,'' replied Berlusconi. ''His very name sends shivers up my spine''. He also reiterated his refusal to appear in a televised debate ahead of elections this weekend that might also include Monti in addition to his main election rival, the centre-left leader Pierluigi Bersani. ''I do not fear Monti,'' said Berlusconi. ''It is just that in a democracy it is illogical for the two leaders who can both aspire to victory to meet with someone who may not even make it into parliament,'' he continued. Monti is running against Berlusconi and Bersani on a centrist and reformist platform. In the last opinion polls published before the pre-election blackout 10 days ago his Civic Choice movement was trailing fourth after the centre-left and centre-right coalitions and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Genoa comedian Beppe Grillo.

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