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Berlusconi group to boycott Italy president vote in Prodi protest


ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday his centre-right bloc would boycott the next round of a vote for state president and protest outside parliament in an attempt to prevent the election of centre-left candidate Romano Prodi.

Prodi, one of Berlusconi's oldest enemies in politics and also a former premier, is unacceptable to the centre-right which accused centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani of going back on his word to nominate a broadly acceptable candidate.

The embattled Bersani proposed Prodi after abandoning his previous candidate, ex-Senate speaker Franco Marini, because of a revolt in his party against any deal with Berlusconi.

"Italy, our country, is more important than the factional interests of the left," Berlusconi said in a statement.

Bersani's centre-left bloc does not have the numbers to elect Prodi on its own and would require a handful of renegades from the other parties to get him through in a vote on Friday afternoon.

A small group of centre-right parliamentarians, led by Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, entered the chamber wearing white t-shirts with the words: "No Prodi No" on the front and "The devil wears Prodi" on the back.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; editing by Barry Moody)