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Berlusconi says Italy should 'confront' Europe on austerity

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, whose party is set to join the coalition taking shape on Friday, said the new government should "confront" Europe over austerity and the 3.0-percent deficit ceiling.

"We could think about confronting Europe, explaining that the limit of 3.0 percent on the deficit and the fiscal compact are correct but not when you are already in recession," Berlusconi told Corriere della Sera in an interview.

"Would there be a stand-off with the European Union? Not necessarily. I don't see a common leadership on this and I think even Brussels is becoming convinced that there has been too much austerity," Berlusconi said.

The 76-year-old billionaire tycoon said he wanted to be the new finance minister but admitted this was unlikely and suggested that a leading member of his People of Freedom party, Renato Brunetta, should take the post instead.

Brunetta has been sharply critical of Germany's role in Europe and has argued against the budget austerity implemented by former European commissioner Mario Monti's outgoing government, including an unpopular property tax.

Monti replaced Berlusconi after the scandal-tainted premier was ousted by a rebellion within his ranks and a wave of panic on the financial markets.

Berlusconi attacked technocrat Monti saying: "He terrorized by fixing terrible targets. Now we need a political government that can re-start the economy. If they really wanted to do things well they would call on me."

Leftist moderate Enrico Letta, a Europhile who has also called for an easing of austerity and urgent attention to social issues, has been designated as the prime minister and was scrambling on Friday to put together a cabinet.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130426/berlusconi-says-italy-should-confront-europe-austerity