(see related) Rome, August 26 - Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday called on members of his People of Freedom (PdL) party to stop making comments regarding a possible rift in the center-right party. Such statements "provide the opportunity to manipulate and feed the controversy that harms internal unity," said the three-time premier. Speculation has been rife of a split in his party between hawks and doves - those who wish to pull out of the left-right coalition government and bring about its end, and those who do not - over his pending ouster from parliament. Next month the Senate will vote to ratify a ban stripping him of his seat in the Upper House following his first-ever binding conviction early this month for tax fraud. Many from the PdL have threatened to topple the government if the ban is upheld.
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di Angelo Biscardi