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Berlusconi pledges to back League's Salvini as Italy's next PM

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Silvio Berlusconi wipes the sweat off League leader Matteo Salvini
Silvio Berlusconi wipes the sweat off League leader Matteo Salvini -
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REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
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Silvio Berlusconi will support the leader of Italy's eurosceptic partner the League in attempts to form a government, the former prime minister said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday.

In a personal defeat for Berlusconi, the far-right League surpassed his Forza Italia party in Sunday's elections, winning about 17 percent of the vote to 14 percent for Forza Italia.

The four parties in the centre-right coalition agreed during the campaign that the leader of the party that won the most votes would head a government.

"In full respect of our agreements, we will now loyally support attempts by (Matteo) Salvini to form a government," Berlusconi told Corriere della Sera.

Berlusconi said on Tuesday (March 6) that the centre-right coalition must receive a mandate to govern after winning the most seats at Sunday’s election.

"I am happy for Matteo Salvini and the League," the 81 year-old said in a video message.

"I confirm that ... I remain Forza Italia’s leader, I will be the coordinator of the centre-right, I will be the guarantor for the unity of the coalition."

It was the first statement he made since the election.

The vote produced a hung parliament and talks to form a government will take weeks, possibly months.

The League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement both say the president should name their own leaders as prime minister.

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