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Napolitano rejects Merkel role in Berlusconi removal

'No request to replace premier', says president

30 December, 14:32
Napolitano rejects Merkel role in Berlusconi removal (ANSA) - Rome, December 30 - President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday rejected a US media report that claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for the removal of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.

A political furore erupted after a report in The Wall Street Journal suggested Merkel had "intervened" in October and telephoned Napolitano urging him to "nudge Berlusconi off the stage".

A statement released by Napolitano's office said that there was no discussion "of any issue of internal Italian politics, nor any request to replace the premier".

"The reason for the conversation was only about the measures taken and to be taken to reduce the deficit, in defence of the euro and in relation to structural reforms," the statement said.

The highly respected Journal said that Merkel was concerned that Berlusconi was failing to adequately tackle the debt crisis and introduce the reforms demanded by the European Central Bank.

Earlier on Friday a spokesman for Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party (PdL), Daniele Capezzone, demanded a "convincing denial" of the report.

He also expressed concern about the content of the telephone call describing it as "authoritative and invasive" and stressed that Italy remained a healthy democracy with its "autonomy and freedom" intact.

The Journal claimed its article was drawn from interviews with more than two dozen policy makers, including "many leading actors".

It said Merkel was under pressure to intervene to prevent Italy from following the financial collapse witnessed in Greece and other countries.

"We are not a German colony," said Melania de Nichilo Rizzoli, an MP for the PdL. "The European treaties do not allow the interference of one state in the political affairs of another European state".

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