August 21, 2013 / 9:35 AM / 4 years ago

Italy's Letta says problems threatening government can be overcome

Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta meets with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras (not pictured) in Athens July 29, 2013. Letta is on a two-day working visit to Athens. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

VIENNA (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Wednesday he was confident that problems threatening his fragile coalition government, which is struggling to meet demands from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right, can be overcome.

“I am sure that everyone will do their part to get out of this difficulty, which I think can be overcome,” Letta said during a visit to Austria, where he emphasised Italy’s need for political stability to protect the first signs it could be returning to economic growth after its longest post-war recession.

Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud has threatened the stability of the government, with the former prime minister’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party demanding guarantees for his political future.

On Wednesday Italian press reported that PDL leaders would present a list of demands to Letta as the price for continuing to support an awkward coalition of traditional rivals, forced to rule together to end months of post-election stalemate in April.

In autumn Berlusconi, a four-time prime minister, faces a vote in the Senate on whether to remove him from parliament and prevent him from standing for election.

The 76-year-old billionaire recently re-launched Forza Italia, the party that first swept him to victory in 1994. His allies are lobbying hard to guarantee his freedom to campaign, desperate to protect a charismatic leader who has dominated Italian politics for almost two decades.

Reporting by Naomi O'Leary, editing by Philip Pullella

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