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Berlusconi blasts Bersani for rebuffing growth pact

'Irresponsible and insolent', premier says as offer turned down

31 January, 18:27
Berlusconi blasts Bersani for rebuffing growth pact

(ANSA) - Rome, January 31 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday branded opposition Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani as "irresponsible and insolent" after the PD chief rejected an offer of a bipartisan pact for growth.

The premier said his mooted pact was "the only serious proposal to relaunch the economy and society" while cutting public debt.

By the end of next month, Berlusconi said, the government would call a major assembly of officials and business representatives with the aim of achieving 3-4% annual growth rates within the next five years. The next general election, Berlusconi said, would "punish" politicians who attempt to "sabotage" reform, reiterating his determination to press on until the end of the government's term in 2013 despite an ongoing scandal that could see him brought to trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute.

On Friday, he added, the cabinet will start discussing a reform to an article in the Italian Constitution, Article 41, which critics say hampers free enterprise.

The government will also assess new tax breaks for the south of Italy, he said.

In rejecting the growth-pact proposal, Bersani claimed Berlusconi no longer had the credibility to make such an offer because of the scandal and reiterated that he should stand down.

"Berlusconi should take a step back and remove himself and the country from (this) embarrassment," the PD leader said.

"In order to address the opposition credibly, Berlusconi should be able to address the country and the international community credibly. That is not the case," Bersani claimed.

Italy was "paralysed" because of the sex scandal, the PD leader alleged.

Berlusconi made his offer for a bipartisan pact in the Corriere della Sera newspaper Monday, calling for greater incentives for investment and an increase in the tax base but ruling out the PD's idea of a one-off levy on assets.