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Europe

Berlusconi's appeal to opposition meets with rancor

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi tried Monday to counter attacks from industry leaders that his sex scandals had "paralyzed" the country. The opposition flatly denied the premier's call for bipartisan economic legislation.

Silvio Berlusconi in profile

Berlusconi's opponents called the appeal a sign of weakness

Embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi unexpectedly reached out to the left-wing opposition Monday with an appeal for bipartisan debates to overhaul Italy's troubled economy.

In an open letter appearing in the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, Berlusconi appealed to Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani to cooperate in forging a plan to increase Italy's lagging economic growth from 1 percent to 3 or 4 percent in five years.

He proposed to do so through "drastic measures of allocation of public assets on the market and taxation exemption in favor of businesses and young people."

"We need a freer economy … a more stable country," Berlusconi wrote, pointing to Germany as an example of a "liberalizing and reforming leap."

Opposition demands resignation

The opposition rejected Berlusconi's appeal out of hand, saying the letter was a sign of the prime minister's weakness.

Moroccan dancer Ruby

Prosecutors say Berlusconi invited a 17-year-old dancer to his orgies

"Berlusconi should step down and stop embarrassing Italy and himself," Bersani said.

"In order to address the opposition credibly, Berlusconi should be able to credibly address the country and the international community. This is not the case," he added.

The prime minister responded by calling the opposition "irresponsible" and "insolent" in the face of "the only serious proposal to relaunch the Italian economy and society."

Legal troubles in the way

Business leaders have slammed Berlusconi in recent weeks, with Confindustria industry association president Emma Marcegaglia accusing him of "paralyzing" Italy with his sex scandals.

Milan prosecutors said Monday they wanted to begin trial proceedings against Berlusconi on charges of having sex with minors and aiding prostitution. They said they had prepared more than 600 pages of evidence against the 74-year-old state premier.

Author: David Levitz (AP, AFP, dpa)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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