Berlusconi's legal problems 'won't touch' government

Coalition parties say issue separate from Letta's executive

Berlusconi's legal problems 'won't touch' government

(see related stories on Berlusconi) Rome, May 9 - Senior members of the two main parties supporting Premier Enrico Letta's left-right government said Thursday that Silvio Berlusconi's new legal problems would not cause the executive to collapse. Earlier on Thursday Naples prosecutors requested Berlusconi be sent to trial over allegations the ex-premier bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides. On Wednesday, a Milan court upheld a four-year conviction against Berlusconi for tax fraud on TV rights bought by his Mediaset TV empire. He is also on trial in Milan over accusations he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan dancer. Three-time premier Berlusconi says this week's developments are part of a campaign by left-wing magistrates who are persecuting him for political reasons. There has been speculation these problems could disrupt the delicate balance between Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party and the centre-left Democratic Party, which formed an unprecedented alliance last month to end a long deadlock after February's general election failed to produce a clear winner. Some thought Berlusconi might sink the government in anger at the decisions. Meanwhile, some political pundits have said parts of the PD may rebel against the PdL's attacks on the judiciary. The PdL has said Berlusconi will attend a big protest in Brescia on Saturday against the treatment he is being dealt by magistrates. But both sides are saying Letta's government will not be dragged into the wrangle. "Yesterday's ruling in Milan and the request by Naples prosecutors for Silvio Berlusconi to be indicted are clearly attacks not just from judicial forces, but political ones too," said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior PdL lawmaker. "The double aim is to hit Berlusconi and to put the balance of the current government in crisis. "We aren't going to fall for provocations as regards the government. The life and future of the government will depend on its contents concerning economic policies and reforms of the institutions. Junior Economy Minister Stefano Fassina of the PD said the centre left did not want Berlusconi's problems having an impact on the government either. "We all intend to keep Silvio Berlusconi's judicial affairs separate from the activities of the government and of parliament, with which they must not interfere," Fassina said.

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