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Monti Says He Can’t Be Threatened Amid Berlusconi Challenge

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, facing a challenge from former premier Silvio Berlusconi, said he can’t be threatened by parliamentary backers pushing for changes to government austerity policy.

“Threats to withdraw support can’t be made to this government,” Monti said today at a press conference in Madrid. “You can’t call it a threat because, and I think I speak for my fellow ministers, the only thing it would take away is a government that we didn’t ask for.”

Monti, in the 11th month of his caretaker government, is being pressed to relax his austerity measures. The two main parties in the ruling coalition are shaping campaign messages as Italy prepares to pick Monti’s successor in national elections by April. Berlusconi, whose party is the government’s No. 1 parliamentary supporter, said on Oct. 27 that Monti’s austerity is deepening Italy’s recession.

“We will consider these facts and decide whether to immediately withdraw our support of the government,” said Berlusconi.

The difference in yield between Italian and German 10-year bonds widened 16 basis points to 352 basis points at 4:42 p.m. in Rome.

Berlusconi delivered his challenge at a press conference a day after he was found guilty by a Milan court of fraud in a television rights trial. Berlusconi’s threat to bring down the government has divided his People of Liberty Party. Franco Frattini, a former foreign affairs minister under Berlusconi, said in an interview today with Corriere della Sera newspaper that Monti is a guarantee of credibility for Italy.

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