Rome, August 22 - Silvio Berlusconi's party continued to threaten the end of the shaky coalition government Thursday following a tense tete-a-tete between Premier Enrico Letta and Berlusconi's No.2, Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano, in a last-ditch bid to avert the end of the shaky 100-day alliance over the media mogul's legal troubles and a pending ban from office. "A solution is possible, but if the (center-left) Democratic Party (PD) provokes a rupture, us pulling out of the government would be inevitable," said Sandro Bondi, a Senator from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. In a late-night, two-hour meeting Wednesday, Alfano told Letta, from the PD, that the PdL could not countenance staying in the cabinet if the center left votes his party leader out of the Senate. The Senate is set to vote September 9 on stripping three-time premier and media magnate Berlusconi of his place in the upper house according to a new anti-corruption law that kicked in after his August 1 conviction for tax fraud, his first definitive sentence in almost 20 years of battles with magistrates he accuses of left-wing bias. "I will not accept blackmail or ultimatums," said Letta after the meeting adjourned in an apparent stalemate. Renato Schifani, the PdL's Senate whip, said Thursday the party did not "intend to pull the plug on the government," but insisted that the PD reconsider the law that would have Berlusconi ejected from parliament. The PdL claims subjecting Berlusconi to the law, passed by Mario Monti's previous government with backing from the PD and PdL, would breach the Constitution because it would allegedly be applied retroactively.
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di Giovanni Pastore