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Feb 21, 2013

Italy’s Bersani on anti-glamour quest for power

ROME (Reuters) – In an electoral landscape crowded with some of the most colorful personalities in European politics, Italy’s center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani is a conspicuously unglamorous exception.

Bald, rumpled and habitually seen dragging on a stumpy Tuscan cigar, opinion polls suggest the 61-year-old head of the Democratic Party (PD) is the man most likely to lead the next government after elections on Sunday and Monday.

Feb 21, 2013

Two Italies share pain as crisis bites

ACERRA/BRESCIA, Italy, Feb 21 (Reuters) – Italy is nearing
election day but you would have a hard time noticing it in
Acerra, a scruffy industrial town just outside Naples, best
known for housing one of the largest rubbish incinerators in
Europe.

“You’ll see more of those than any campaign posters,” said
local television station boss Raffaele Tagliamonte, pointing to
a display of large white obituary notices of a kind commonly
seen plastered on walls in southern Italian towns.

Feb 12, 2013

Pope resignation leaves Catholic world in shock

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict left the Catholic world in shock after becoming the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to resign his office, saying that failing strength had left him unable to lead the church through a period of relentless change and turmoil.

The 85-year-old pontiff announced his abdication as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in a speech delivered in Latin, the universal language of the church, to cardinals meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

Feb 11, 2013

Sexual abuse victims blast Benedict papacy

ROME (Reuters) – Pope Benedict leaves office having failed to stamp out the sexual abuse of children by priests and with the culture of secrecy that fostered the scandal still in place, groups representing some of the victims said on Monday.

Bishops Accountability, a U.S. pressure group, said the pope had apologized frequently for the harm done by priests but had never taken effective action to rectify the “incalculable harm” done to hundreds of thousands of children by predatory clergy.

Feb 10, 2013

Italy’s Monti slams Berlusconi as vote day nears

ROME, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti
accused his media magnate rival Silvio Berlusconi of trying to
buy votes with impossible promises on Sunday as Italy’s election
campaign entered its last phase.

With the Feb. 24-25 vote two weeks away, polls suggest the
centre-left Democratic Party (PD) will win a solid lower house
majority but may need a deal with Monti’s centrists to gain the
control of the Senate it must have to govern.

Feb 9, 2013

ECB’s Visco says markets watching Italy closely

ROME (Reuters) – Financial markets remain keenly focused on Italy’s ability to control its public finances and pursue reforms to lift its stagnant economy, European Central Bank governing council member Ignazio Visco said on Saturday.

Confidence in Italy has been shaken in the run-up to elections, after a strong campaign by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that has opened up the race and threatened the prospects of stable government emerging after the vote.

Feb 6, 2013

Italy’s Bersani faces choice between Monti and leftist ally

ROME, Feb 6 (Reuters) – The leader of Italy’s centre-left
Democratic Party is facing pressure to ditch his leftist allies
and seek a pact with outgoing premier Mario Monti as a resurgent
Silvio Berlusconi threatens to spoil an election victory that
once seemed assured.

With national elections due on Feb. 24-25, Berlusconi’s mix
of German-bashing rhetoric and promises to scrap the hated IMU
housing tax is causing growing alarm on the centre-left, which
has seen its impregnable-seeming opinion poll lead chipped away.

Jan 29, 2013

Italian government defends Bank of Italy over Monte Paschi

SIENA/ROME, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Italian Economy Minister
Vittorio Grilli defended the central bank on Tuesday against
accusations it had been lax in overseeing the troubled lender
Monte dei Paschi, telling parliament its supervision
had been “attentive and appropriate”.

The widening scandal at Monte dei Paschi, which faces losses
of as much as 720 million euros ($969 million) over an opaque
series of derivatives and structured finance transactions, has
shaken Italy’s financial and political establishment.

Jan 29, 2013

ECB’s Draghi met Italy minister over Monte Paschi case

SIENA/ROME, Jan 29 (Reuters) – European Central Bank head
Mario Draghi, head of Italy’s central bank until 2011, met
Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli to discuss the widening
scandal at Monte dei Paschi bank a day before Grilli
was due to address parliament on the issue on Tuesday.

An ECB spokesman in Frankfurt confirmed the meeting,
declining to give any details, but a source with knowledge of
the encounter said earlier it was likely they talked about
Grilli’s address to a parliamentary committee later on Tuesday.

Jan 27, 2013

Berlusconi defends Mussolini, draws outrage from political left

ROME (Reuters) – Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggered outrage from Italy’s political left on Sunday with comments defending fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Speaking at the margins of the event in Milan, Berlusconi said Mussolini had been wrong to follow Nazi Germany’s lead in passing anti-Jewish laws but that he had in other respects been a good leader.