Italy's Letta says problems threatening government can be overcome

VIENNA Wed Aug 21, 2013 6:10am EDT

1 of 2. Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta listens during a news conference in Vienna August 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Wednesday he was confident that problems threatening his fragile coalition government, which is struggling to meet demands from Silvio Berlusconi's center-right, can be overcome.

"I am sure that everyone will do their part to get out of this difficulty, which I think can be overcome," Letta said during a visit to Austria, where he emphasized Italy's need for political stability to protect the first signs it could be returning to economic growth after its longest post-war recession.

Berlusconi's conviction for tax fraud has threatened the stability of the government, with the former prime minister's center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party demanding guarantees for his political future.

On Wednesday Italian press reported that PDL leaders would present a list of demands to Letta as the price for continuing to support an awkward coalition of traditional rivals, forced to rule together to end months of post-election stalemate in April.

In autumn Berlusconi, a four-time prime minister, faces a vote in the Senate on whether to remove him from parliament and prevent him from standing for election.

The 76-year-old billionaire recently re-launched Forza Italia, the party that first swept him to victory in 1994. His allies are lobbying hard to guarantee his freedom to campaign, desperate to protect a charismatic leader who has dominated Italian politics for almost two decades.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary, editing by Philip Pullella)

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