Italy's Monti faces pressure to run in election
By Steve Scherer and Giselda Vagnoni
ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti faced increasing pressure on Thursday to stand as a candidate in next year's election after Silvio Berlusconi's surprise offer to drop his bid for a fifth term as premier.
At a meeting of the European People's Party in Brussels, an umbrella group of centre-right parties, Berlusconi repeated the offer to stand aside if Monti agreed to run against the centre-left, who are tipped to win the election.
Monti's attendance at the meeting alongside Berlusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel came as a surprise to many as he was not on the guest list or agenda.
Monti was brought in a year ago to head a technocrat government to save Italy from financial crisis, but opinion polls suggest he would have little chance of winning an election if he were to run as a candidate.
He would also face many hurdles within the center-right, which is highly fragmented and includes his most entrenched critic, the Northern League.
"There were a lot of expressions of support for a Monti candidacy," a member of the European parliament told Reuters. "But Monti didn't resolve the dilemma."
Berlusconi center-right People of Freedom (PD) party withdrew support from Mont's government in parliament last week, prompting him to resign.
On Saturday, Berlusconi declared he would lead the PD into an election expected early next year. Continued...