Berlusconi says not yet decided whether to stand again

Ex-premier says party asking him to return

Berlusconi says not yet decided whether to stand again

(ANSA) - Paris, August 10 - Silvio Berlusconi has said he had not yet decided whether to run for a fourth term as premier in next year's general elections, while hinting he may well do so. Berlusconi, 75, Italy's dominant political figure over the last 18 years, stepped down in favour of technocrat Mario Monti as Italy was whipped by the eurozone debt storm in November. At the time he said he would not stand again but would campaign for the secretary of his People of Freedom (PdL) party, Angelino Alfano. But last month PdL bigwigs said the media magnate would return to front-line politics and run again next year. "The whole (PdL) party, starting from the MPs, is asking me to return to benefit from my popularity in the election campaign," Berlusconi told French daily Liberation in an interview that will be published on Saturday. "I still have not decided but one thing is sure - I'm always at the service of my country. "What is pushing me to continue to commit myself (to politics) is a sense of responsibility towards my country and perhaps bitterness at not having done everything I wanted". The former premier's party is neck-and-neck with 'anti-politics' comedian Beppe Grillo's upstart Five Star party in second place to the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) in recent polls. Pundits say the recent criticism of Monti's austerity policies and of Germany's position regarding the eurozone crisis have played well with PdL loyalists and have started to lure voters back to the party, which lost heavily to the PD in local elections earlier this year. Berlusconi, who is on trial for paying for sex with a teenage alleged prostitute, is currently backing Monti's drive to lift Italy out of the euro crisis, along with the PD. Some pundits have said international financial markets are nervous about the prospect of three-time premier Berlusconi's return to power.

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