Italy's Bersani says to meet Berlusconi this week

Italian centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Tuesday said he would meet rival Silvio Berlusconi this week as the deadlock on forming a new government drags on more than a month after elections.

Bersani said the talks would be about the upcoming election of a new president by parliament, which has proved a key stumbling block between bickering political parties in the eurozone's third largest economy.

Bersani said the meeting could take place on Thursday or Friday.

The centre-left won the February 24-25 elections but failed to get enough votes for an overall majority in parliament, with Berlusconi's centre-right coming in a very close second and a new anti-establishment protest party in third place.

Parliament is due to begin voting on a new president from April 18.

Speaking on RaiTre public television, Bersani repeated his proposal to lead a "minority government" that would be dependent on votes from rival parties in parliament and reiterated his opposition to a grand coalition with Berlusconi.

"They should stop proposing a grand coalition. If they have some other crazy idea, let them come out with it," Bersani said, despite growing calls from within his own party for dialogue with Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.

Bersani also said he was ready to step down if needed, saying: "I am ready to take a step back for my country".

The ex-communist has failed to woo lawmakers from the Five Star Movement, a party that won votes on the back of widespread disillusionment with a culture of political corruption and perks as well as opposition to austerity.

Italy is stuck in its longest recession since the Second World War and the government says the economy will shrink by at least 1.3 percent this year.