Bersani says focus remains on forming a new government

Concerns over ratings cuts, economic woes cloud PD mission

Bersani says focus remains on forming a new government

Rome, March 25 - Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani pledged Monday to focus his immediate attention on finding ways to form a new Italian government, despite numerous distractions. Bersani, leader of the Democratic Party (PD), is trying to form a government that can pass a confidence vote in parliament, although he faces an uphill task after his alliance came first in last month's general election yet failed to obtain a working majority in parliament. After meetings Monday with business and labour groups, Bersani brushed aside suggestions of another possible technical government appointed by the Italian president. "All we need to discuss will be discussed in due course. Do not mix things that are clearly different," he said. The outlook for Italy's recession-plagued economy became even darker Monday and the country's premiere stock market plunged by 2.5% after a banking deal in Cyprus triggered fears it could set a model for other troubled European states. That led to speculation of another downgrade of Italian debt by ratings agencies. Bersani is also being undermined by his opponents in Silvo Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party, which Monday suggested the left would be wise to team up in forming a new government. Bersani rejected that offer, accusing Berlusconi of hypocrisy. "We are at the key moment and it's necessary to talk seriously," Bersani said. "You cannot declare war in the morning and then embrace in the afternoon". Bersani will hold crucial talks with other political parties on Wednesday. But media pundits have expressed pessimism over his chances to successfully form a government and have predicted that Italians will be forced to return to the polls. Bersani must present his progress report to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday.

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