President hits back over Berlusconi meddling accusation
'Delirious, vulgar, slanderous invention', says Napolitano01 October, 11:56
The row has heightened tension after ministers from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party quit Premier Enrico Letta's government on Saturday, causing a political crisis.
On Monday a show on La7 television channel broadcast leaks of a conversation in which Berlusconi said he had been told that Napolitano had contacted Italy's supreme court and exerted influence so that the outcome of its ruling would be even more negative for Berlusconi.
The case regards the supreme court's order for Berlusconi's Fininvest holding company to pay 494 million euros to a rival company in a bid to acquire publisher Mondadori over two decades ago because a judge presiding over the takeover was bribed. Napolitano issued a statement that called the allegation "another delirious, vulgar, slanderous invention".
The furore will not endear Berlusconi to Napolitano, who has a key role to play in the government crisis.
If Letta's executive fails to win a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, it will be up to the president to decide whether to dissolve parliament for new elections, as Berlusconi is demanding, or give someone a mandate to try to form a new government.