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Berlusconi hits back at Monti

Outgoing premier called media magnate the 'Pied Piper'

15 January, 12:42
Berlusconi hits back at Monti (see related stories) (ANSA) - Rome, January 15 - Silvio Berlusconi hit back at outgoing Premier Mario Monti on Tuesday after being described as the "Pied Piper" by his successor as campaigning for next month's Italian election took a bitter turn.

Monti, who took the helm of an emergency technocrat administration in November 2011 when Italy's debt crisis forced Berlusconi to resign as premier, suggested his predecessor had sold unrealistic promises to win three stints at the helm of government.

The former European commissioner, who is standing to retain office on a reform platform backed by centrist parties, said the efforts his government has made to steer the country out of the eurozone crisis would be in vain if Berlusconi's centre-right coalition returned to power.

"The sacrifices Italians have made in the last year can be squandered in three or four months if an old, reinvigorated illusionist goes to power," Monti told Rai television on Monday.

Berlusconi hit back by calling Monti a "bluffer", referring to alleged promises he made not to enter the political fray when he was appointed premier with the backing of the media magnate's People of Freedom (PdL) party and the other big mainstream parties. He also took issue with Monti for suggesting Berlusconi was to blame for Italy's borrowing costs spiking at the peak of the eurozone crisis, as seen in yield spreads for 10-year bonds crossing the 500-basis-points mark.

"Whoever says these things is a scoundrel," Berlusconi told La7 television on Tuesday.

"These are left-wing statements. They are lies".

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