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Berlusconi faces new challenge

Berlusconi faces new challenge
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Embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have to reckon with a third political force in Italy.

His arch nemesis, Gianfranco Fini, joined two other centrist leaders at a Liberal Democratic event, urging unity to take the country forward.

Fini, a former Berlusconi ally who is now calling for the premier to resign, insisted he was looking for political consensus.

“I wonder why only in Italy simply seeking a compromise, simply searching for what can unite people, is considered typical of the worst politics or a betrayal of the mandate given by the voters,” the lower house speaker told the gathering.

Fini is withdrawing ministers loyal to him from the government on Monday.

But Berlusconi, whose approval ratings are at an all time low after a series of sex scandals, has already announced his counter attack. He is bidding to stave off no-confidence votes by calling on parliament to approve the 2011 budget first.

Then he will call the vote himself but starting in the upper house where he still has a majority, thus increasing his chances of hanging on to power.

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