Berlusconi asks govt with PD but rules out PD premier

Bersani opposes coalition with center right, ex-premier

Berlusconi asks govt with PD but rules out PD premier

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, March 21 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said he was open to forming a coalition government with the center-left Democratic Party (PD) after exiting a government-formation meeting with the Italian president on Thursday. "We are absolutely open to a coalition government that intervenes with economic measures that are broadly shared," said Berlusconi. He was leaving talks with President Giorgio Napolitano, who for the second straight day is meeting one-on-one with party leaders to try and form a government and break through the current gridlock. Napolitano met earlier Thursday with Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), who announced shortly after talks that he would not support the current makeup of the parliament but would instruct party members to vote only for policies that suited its platform. The M5S holds the balance of power in a logjammed parliament after capturing a huge protest vote in inconclusive elections last month. Berlusconi said the M5S's unwillingness to compromise Thursday left the responsibility to govern to his center-right coalition and the PD. Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of the PD who has repeatedly ruled out an agreement with Berlusconi, was scheduled to meet later in the day with Napolitano. He is trying to reach out to the M5S, even though Grillo considers Bersani and the PD part of a corrupt, malfunctioning system that he wants to revolutionise and has responded to the overtures with insults. Roberto Speranza, PD House leader, said Thursday that his party's leadership would continue its refusal of any broad coalition involving Berlusconi and his center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. Bersani, whose alliance came first in the election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate, has said he will ask Napolitano to give him the mandate to form a new government when he meets with him personally later Thursday. Berlusconi is against the possibility of the center left claiming the still-vacant premiership or the presidency, which will become vacant when Napolitano steps down at the end of his term in May. "They already have the Speakers," said Berlusconi after talks with Napolitano Thursday, commenting on the fact that both Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso and House Speaker Laura Boldrini hail from the center left. At the moment, no one appears likely to present an administration capable of winning a confidence vote in the Senate.

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