Berlusconi sees no problems with Letta over ministers

Ex-premier upbeat left-right coalition govt can be formed

Berlusconi sees no problems with Letta over ministers

(By Paul Virgo) (see related stories on Letta) Rome, April 26 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that he did not think wrangles about who should hold ministerial positions will stop a left-right executive being formed to end two months of deadlock in Italy after February's inconclusive general election. Enrico Letta of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is expected to present a cabinet of 18 ministers this weekend after being given a mandate to form a new government by President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday. Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, the division-hit PD and outgoing Premier Mario Monti's Civic Choice group have said they are willing to support a broad coalition government. The administration tasked with passing urgent economic measures for the recession-hit economy and a new electoral law to replace the one that failed to produce a winner in February is likely to face confidence votes in parliament Monday and Tuesday But there have been fears Letta's bid to set up an administration could flounder over ministerial nominations. Many in the PD, for example, have howled disapproval following speculation that the PdL wants its House whip, former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, to be a minister in Letta's cabinet. Brunetta has been at the centre of some of the most bitter rows between the PD and the PdL in the recent years. Objections have also been raised following talk that former centre-left premier Massimo D'Alema could be Letta's foreign minister. D'Alema has denied links he was involved in internal PD revolts that sank two of the party's own candidates to become Italy's president and led to the resignation of party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani. But three-time premier Berlusconi is optimistic. The 76-year-old said Friday there were "no real problems" facing Letta. "We can't expect a 100% deal but my people were very encouraged (in meetings with Letta). There aren't any knots to be untied," he said, adding that he would not serve as a minister. "If I had been needed I would have been available but I prefer it this way," He said newly re-elected President Giorgio Napolitano expected "the new generation and a significant presence of women" in the cabinet. The new government's policies may be more of the problem than the ministers though. Brunetta said Friday that scrapping and refunding an unpopular property tax called IMU - one of Berlusconi's election pledges - was a fundamental condition for the centre-right's participation in a grand coalition government. The PD has said it would ease IMU for the worse-off but has said scrapping the tax saying it would wreck the budget. IMU was instituted among a series of austerity measures under Monti's technocrat government to help mend public accounts and face down sovereign-debt crisis last year.

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