Berlusconi "would back Monti as centre-right premier"
By Barry Moody and James Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi offered on Wednesday to stand back and make way for Mario Monti as Italy's next leader if the outgoing technocrat premier agreed to run as the candidate for a center-right coalition.
At a book launch in Rome, Berlusconi issued a series of rambling and contradictory statements, although he confirmed he was currently still standing as the center-right candidate in the election.
Monti announced on Saturday that he planned to resign, shortly after Berlusconi had said he would be the candidate of his People of Freedom (PDL) party in an election expected in February.
Monti has not decided whether he will stand for prime minister despite being strongly wooed by centrist parties, European leaders and investors who want him to continue his austerity policies. They are deeply concerned about a return by the scandal-plagued Berlusconi.
Monti replaced Berlusconi a year ago as recession-hit Italy teetered on the brink of a Greek-style debt crisis, and has since restored its international respect.
Since the weekend, Berlusconi has repeatedly attacked Monti's policies, saying they have brought Italy to the edge of an abyss, and bitterly criticized Germany.
On Wednesday, he said Monti's policies had been dictated by the left and again accused Germany of profiting from the euro zone crisis.
"It is undeniable that we are worse off now. Every statistic is worse than a year ago. Italians are desperate," he said. Continued...