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Italy needs more time to form a new government, says president

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League leader Matteo Salvini speaks to the media after consultations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Italy, August 22, 2019
League leader Matteo Salvini speaks to the media after consultations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Italy, August 22, 2019 -
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Italy's president has extended the time needed for a new government to be formed.

Sergio Mattarella has been speaking to key political leaders over the last two days in a bid to find a majority for a new alliance.

It comes after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday (August 20), closing the door on a fractious coalition between Matteo Salvini's far-right League party and the left-leaning populists, Five Star Movement.

Mattarella had been expected to make an announcement about a new government on Thursday evening.

But, instead, he said consultations would continue until next Tuesday.

Earlier, Salvini called for fresh elections after a meeting with Mattarella, arguing that Italy cannot afford to waste time with a "government that quarrels".

Salvini, who was Italy's interior minister until the resignation of Conte, also hinted that he would consider a new alliance with the Five Star Movement if it was in favour of a "courageous budget".

"If they want to get the country moving again we are ready to do so without prejudice, without looking back," he said.

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Earlier, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi called for fresh elections in Italy if a centre-right coalition can not be agreed, and said that a coalition between the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Movement — proposed by former prime minister Matteo Renzi — would be a betrayal of Italian voters.

"The pure chance that political forces that have been fighting each other yesterday have now come to a common interest certainly cannot be the basis upon which to build a stable and credible cabinet, but instead it makes a fool of the voters," he told journalists in Rome.

"A cabinet so biased towards the left, like the one today would be dangerous for businesses, for development, for security, for warranties and freedoms of all citizens."

Mattarella met Salvini and Berlusconi following a meeting with Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti, and Luigi di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement.

The meetings are designed to find a solution to Italy's latest political crisis.

Salvini, who has criticised heavily in Conte's resignation speech yesterday, is hoping that elections will allow him to increase his power over Italian politics, with polling before the crisis putting his League on 37% of the national vote. But if a coalition can be agreed, Salvini's plan may backfire.

"We will see how it changes his rhetoric if he’s out of government if he’s no longer interior minister, which was a powerful position to express his very strong stance on immigration for example," Lorenzo Pregliasco, founder of political research firm Quorum, told Euronews earlier on Thursday.

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