There have been crisis talks in Italy as Silvio Berlusconi split from his once most powerful ally, prompting speculation the government could fall.
Senior colleagues gathered to discuss the consequences of the final showdown between the premier and Gianfranco Fini after months of conflict.
The pair co-founded the ruling People of Freedom party. But now it has issued a document, censuring Fini for open dissent.
Having rejected a last-minute peace offer from his rival, Berlusconi said the party’s presidency considered Fini’s position incompatible with its principles, commitment to voters and political activity.
In the wake of repeated scandals, Berlusconi has been enraged by Fini hammering away on the theme of morality and legality in government. The hostility has been impossible to hide.
Under pressure from Berlusconi to quit as speaker of the lower house of parliament, Fini says he has no intention of doing so.