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Berlusconi meets Napolitano

Ex-premier reportedly talked of reforms, his political future

03 April, 10:47
Berlusconi meets Napolitano (ANSA) - Rome, April 3 - Ex-premier and centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi had a surprise meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday.

The two men reportedly talked about the support of Berlusconi's opposition Forza Italia (FI) party for an ambitious programme of institutional reforms Premier Matteo Renzi has embarked on to make Italy easier and cheaper to govern.

But they are also thought to have discussed Berlusconi's demands to be able to continue to be a player in the political arena following a definitive tax-fraud conviction last year.

The 77-year-old billionaire was ejected from the Senate after the ruling, his first definitive conviction in two decades of legal battles, and is ineligible to stand in May's European elections. Furthermore, a Milan court is set to decide on April 10 whether the three-time premier should serve the remaining year of a four-term term under house arrest or by doing community service, as Berlusconi has requested. Three years of the four-year sentence were covered by an amnesty. The media magnate, who has continued to lead FI from outside parliament, says the ruling was part of a campaign by left-wing elements in the judiciary who want to sweep him out of Italy's public life. He is also appealing a seven-year term for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power to try to cover up the case and is on trial for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides.

In the past Berlisconi has said Napolitano should give him a pardon over the tax-fraud case. The Head of State replied that he could only do this if Berlusconi made a formal request for one - something the ex-premier has refused to do as it could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. "I don't know what Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgio Napolitano said to each other yesterday," said Relations with Parliament and Reforms Minister Maria Elena Boschi, a close ally of Renzi's in his centre-left Democratic Party (PD). "I image Berlusconi confirmed his commitment to the reforms," she added, referring to a bill to change the Constitution to make it possible to transform the Senate into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives with blunted lawmaking powers and to scrap the country's provincial administrations.

"In the talks we've had with Forza Italia, the issue of the reforms has never been mixed up with Berlusconi's judicial affairs".