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Napolitano's pardon statements get mixed reviews

Government allies give conflicting interpretations

Napolitano's pardon statements get mixed reviews

Rome, August 14 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's statement that he would consider if it was possible to pardon centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi after a one-year conviction for tax fraud and ban from public office was met with conflicting interpretations on Wednesday. The two allies making up Italy's fragile coalition government, the long-time foes center-left Democratic Party (PD) of Premier Enrico Letta and Berlusconi's conservative People of Freedom party (PdL), highlighted different passages of Napolitano's statement. PD lawmakers noted the president had stressed that all convictions must be implemented while the ex-premier's allies welcomed Napolitano's opening to the possibility of a pardon. "It looks to me like President Napolitano repeated a concept that should have been obvious for weeks - that Italy is a state of law and convictions upheld on appeal must be respected and implemented", said the PD's Deputy Economy Minister Stefano Fassina in an interview published Wednesday by Turin daily La Stampa. PD Senate whip Luigi Zanda also noted that Napolitano had stressed that any decision would have to respect the division of powers. "The statement cites the limits and characteristics of powers attributed to the head of state", said Zanda. Pdl lawmakers on the other hand welcomed Napolitano's opening after demanding over the past week that Berlusconi be pardoned on the grounds that he has long been the victim of malicious prosecution and threatening to bring down Italy's unprecedented left-right coalition government over the issue. Napolitano's statement, said leading PdL member Stefania Prestigiacomo, "has been a first acknowledgement that the situation is difficult and a solution must be found. "There are almost 10 million Italians who would otherwise be robbed of their political representation. "The issue of Berlusconi's political presence is real. Napolitano's opening is very important". Napolitano said Tuesday he was weighing if it was possible to pardon Berlusconi while stressing that all convictions must be implemented. He also noted that he had not received a pardon request and that any decision he would make in such an event would have to respect the division of state powers. Napolitano pointed out that Berlusconi, 76, would be eligible to serve his one-year sentence at one of his many residences or doing some form of community service. The Senate is scheduled to vote next month on ejecting the PdL leader whether or not his ban is upheld. The president once more warned against ending Italy's two-month-old emergency reform government, which he helped forge to end two months of political deadlock following February's inconclusive general election amid the country's longest recession in over twenty years. Berlusconi's lawyer Franco Coppi told Corriere della Sera on Wednesday that with his statement the president had indicated that "the issue does not only concern the citizen Silvio Berlusconi but rather the country's equilibrium". He said no decision had yet been made on a pardon request and that "in the end, it will be Berlusconi who will have to choose". "It is certainly a possibility that is being considered", said the attorney. Coppi later voiced his belief that a pardon request would be forthcoming, "sooner or later".

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