Bersani says meeting Berlusconi to discuss next president

Centre-left leader again rules out grand coalition

Bersani says meeting Berlusconi to discuss next president

Rome, April 9 - Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani confirmed on Tuesday that he will meet Silvio Berlusconi later this week, but again ruled out forming a grand coalition with the ex-premier's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. However, Bersani, whose alliance came first in February's general election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate, stressed that talks will focus on the election of the next Italian president. Democratic Party (PD) chief Bersani's refusal to respond to Berlusconi's calls for him to consider a pact with the PdL to end the political deadlock has been criticised by many within his own party. And on Monday the current head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, suggested the parties should have the "courage" to reach an agreement for the good of a country that faces huge economic challenges and is in the middle of its biggest recession for 20 years. But Bersani defended his position, saying the experience of outgoing Premier Mario Monti's emergency technocrat administration, which both the PD and the PdL supported in parliament, showed a grand coalition would not work. "I experienced a broad coalition in the final stages of the Monti government," Bersani, who failed in his bid to win support from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement that holds the balance of power in the Senate, told state broadcaster Rai. "We hung in there and Berlusconi took off (and withdrew his support) three month's before (the end of its term in December). When I meet him, I'll say: I know you, you're in disguise. We've already been there". Bersani added that the talks with Berlusconi will regard "the method to elect the president". Napolitano's seven-year term ends mid May.

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