Italy foes agree to back former senate chief Marini for president

The parties of Italy's centre-left coalition leader and right-wing former premier Silvio Berlusconi agreed on a presidential candidate Wednesday, a move that could break a two-month impasse on forming a new government.

Pier Luigi Bersani's Democratic Party (PD), that won a February election by a whisker, and Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) agreed to endorse 80-year-old Franco Marini to succeed Giorgio Napolitano.

"Franco Marini is the candidate best-placed to achieve the greatest consensus," Bersani said after negotiations with lawmakers.

"He is a clear-sighted and generous person, one of those who laid social and labour foundations for the centre-left," he said.

"Franco Marini is a positive and serious person and we don't see this as a defeat," Berlusconi said during a meeting with his party shortly after the negotiations.

Marini headed the Italian senate from 2006 to 2008 and is considered a Christian democrat.