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Italy president tasks senate speaker to see if government can be formed

FILE PHOTO: The newly elected Senate President Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati leaves after the meeting with the Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Italy, April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday asked Senate speaker Maria Casellati to meet with bickering political parties to see if a government can be formed following inconclusive elections six weeks ago.

At a meeting at the presidential palace, Mattarella gave her an “exploratory mandate” and a Friday deadline to report back to him about the possibility of breaking the deadlock.

It has proved impossible to form a ruling coalition since the March 4 vote produced a hung parliament.

Casellati, 71, said she would meet with members of the centre-right coalition which won most seats at the election but fell short of a working majority, and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement which emerged as the largest single party.

It would be a surprise if her efforts are successful.

The 5-Star said earlier on Wednesday it would definitely not form a government with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party, which is a core component of the centre-right.

Casellati is a senior member of Forza Italia and is extremely close to Berlusconi.

The European Union’s third-largest economy has been under a caretaker government since the election.

Two rounds of formal consultations have failed to overcome seemingly irreconcilable positions, and the stalemate is likely to persist until regional elections later this month, according to political sources.

Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Gavin Jones