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Italian president insists his country not 'sick'


Italy's president insisted on a visit to Germany Thursday that his country was neither "sick" nor posed a contagion risk to Europe through its post-election political deadlock.

"There's no Italy that has lost its direction. So there is no risk of contagion" as Europe battles a financial crisis, Giorgio Napolitano said.

For a country to be contagious it first had to be ill, the president added.

"We are not at all sick. We have a complicated election result," he told reporters.

Italy held an inconclusive general election this week that left it with no workable majority in parliament.

"I am sure that in the coming weeks an Italian government will be formed," Napolitano said and stressed the government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti was still in office and would represent the country at an EU summit next month.

"I want to say something here clearly: Italy is currently not without a government," he said, standing beside German President Joachim Gauck with whom he had held talks.

He also described as "regrettable" a diplomatic spat which prompted him to cancel talks, set for late Wednesday, with a German opposition politician bidding to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel in this year's general elections.

Peer Steinbrueck had called two of the candidates in Italy's elections "clowns".

The Italian president said he would have been pleased to talk with a member of Germany's opposition.

People were free to think what they wanted, but in this case, "balance" and "discretion" were called for, said the president.

"When one speaks about certain things with respect to another country, a friendly, allied country, and which concerns the result of free elections, then one must really be very balanced in one's choice of words and really show discretion as regards the relationship between two countries," he said.