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Berlusconi Drags Merkel Into Italy Race in Monti Meeting

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Berlusconi Offers to Withdraw His Candidacy If Monti Runs
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered to drop his plans to run for premier on the condition that Italian Premier Mario Monti agrees to enter the election campaign and lead a coalition of “moderates.” Photographer: Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The last time Silvio Berlusconi was in Brussels with European leaders, he became the butt of an inside joke between then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Now, out of office for 13 months and spoiling for a return, Berlusconi showed up today at a pre-summit meeting of leaders of European conservative parties that included his successor, Mario Monti, and Merkel. The encounter resulted in backing for Monti and warnings that Italy should stick to his economic prescription.

“There was broad support for Monti” at the meeting, said Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg prime minister and head of the group of European finance ministers. For her part, Merkel didn’t express an opinion on candidates, a German official said.

Berlusconi, who blamed Europe’s economic woes on Merkel’s push for austerity, attended the European People’s Party meeting a day after he offered to drop his plans to run for premier if Monti joined the race.

Berlusconi reiterated his offer for Monti to enter the fray at the head of a coalition that would include Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party as well as the Northern League, which served in all three of Berlusconi’s governments.

Moderates’ Candidate

“At this stage let him be the candidate of the PDL too,” Berlusconi said after the meeting. “We will have some difficulties in convincing the League on this, but I think that even the League can reason about it so that he can be the candidate of all moderates.”

Berlusconi said that Monti did not respond to his offer.

And Northern League leader Roberto Maroni posted a message on his Twitter feed rebuffing a potential alliance with Monti. His party isn’t available to be part of ``a great coalition headed by Monti the one who hold the world record of tax increases. No thanks.” he wrote.

The unelected Monti, who has no party affiliation, made a surprise appearance at the Brussels gathering after Berlusconi announced his plan to attend.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at a press conference that he had spoken to Berlusconi about “the importance of having stability in Italy, the importance of keeping Italy on this path of stability and reform. This is critically important for Italy but also for the euro area and for the European Union.”

That advice recalled the joint press conference on Oct. 23, 2011, when Sarkozy and Merkel snickered before responding to whether Berlusconi could fix the nation’s finances. Berlusconi resigned two weeks later.

Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, is also making overtures to Monti.

“I have told Monti that he must continue to have a role,” Bersani said in Rome. “The day after the elections, if I win, I will consider together with Monti” what he might do.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Davis in Brussels at; Lorenzo Totaro in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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