Italy PM Enrico Letta threatens to resign

Italian PM Enrico Letta. Photo: 26 September 2013 Enrico Letta has led the government since April after inconclusive elections

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Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta says he will resign unless his cabinet gets clear backing in a parliamentary vote expected to be called next week.

His warning came after the government failed to approve key budget measures.

Mr Letta's government is an unstable coalition between his party and that of ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi could lose his Senate seat after his fraud conviction. His backers say they would leave the cabinet in protest.

Snap election fears

"I have no intention of limping along or being the subject of continuous threats," Mr Letta said in a statement after the government meeting late on Friday.

"Either we go forward, and the interests of the country and citizens are put first, or this experience ends here."

Silvio Berlusconi Silvio Berlusconi has claimed he is the victim of a left-wing conspiracy

Two government ministers said that Mr Letta was now planning to call a confidence vote in parliament next week.

The friction between Mr Letta's centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL), on the centre-right, is now paralysing the government, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

The cabinet is close to collapse just at a time when Italy desperately needs political stability if it is to begin to emerge from its long economic crisis, our correspondent adds.

If the PDL pulled out of the government, it would lead to snap elections.

Italy's president and business leaders have warned against new polls while is still mired in recession, saying they could reignite fears about the country's stability and financial position.

'Resignation signatures'

According to a 2012 anti-corruption law, Berlusconi should be ejected from the upper house after the supreme court last month upheld his fraud conviction.

But, after a party meeting on Wednesday, his MPs threatened to resign en masse if the Senate votes next next week to expel their mentor.

The Italian news agency Ansa cited sources who said PDL members were already writing out their resignations and threatening to hand them in to the party whips.

The billionaire three-time prime minister has been sentenced to a year in prison, but because of his age is expected to serve house arrest or community service.

It was his first conviction to be confirmed on appeal in two decades of fighting legal cases.

Last week Berlusconi vowed to stay in politics even if he lost his place in the Senate.

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