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Italy's Berlusconi says will see out his term

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he leaves an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, December 17, 2010. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday he was certain he would see out his term in 2013 after narrowly surviving a confidence vote this week.

Tuesday’s no-confidence motion left the government clinging on by just three votes and most political commentators predict early elections next year -- two years ahead of time -- unless Berlusconi can broaden his conservative coalition to centrists.

Exuding his trademark confidence, Berlusconi said he would govern until the end of his term. “I am absolutely certain that I will complete the legislature,” he told reporters after a European Union summit. “I am certain I have the numbers.”

The no-confidence motion was put forward by the centre-left opposition and lawmakers loyal to Gianfranco Fini, the lower house speaker who bitterly split from Berlusconi last summer.

Fini suffered a humiliating blow as the 74-year-old prime minister scraped through. But most analysts have called the vote a Pyrrhic victory for Berlusconi that is unlikely to avert a fresh crisis in the next few weeks and a snap vote next spring.

The Union of the Centre (UDC), heirs to the old Christian Democratic Party, have so far rejected Berlusconi’s offer to join his ruling coalition, closing ranks instead with Fini’s breakaway Future and Freedom (FLI) group.

Berlusconi denied widespread allegations of vote-buying to secure the support of wavering rebel deputies in Tuesday’s motion, with opposition lawmakers describing the atmosphere in parliament as a “cattle market” or “football transfer season.”

“There was no buying of players, I didn’t offer jobs in government nor a reward. We only talked common sense,” he said.

Writing by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Mark Heinrich