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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
Berlusconi defiant on poll result
Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi remains caretaker PM for several weeks
Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to accept defeat in the nation's general election, saying the results are "not clear cut".

In a letter printed by an Italian newspaper on Saturday he says Italy faces a "stalemate... in which there will be neither winners nor losers".

However official figures show there are too few disputed ballots to deprive the centre-left coalition of victory.

Its leader, Romano Prodi, looks set to be confirmed as the winner.

In his letter to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Mr Berlusconi proposes a short-term coalition with his rival to "meet the country's immediate institutional, economic and international timetable".

ITALIAN ELECTION RESULTS

Mr Prodi has already rejected such a suggestion.

Mr Berlusconi accuses Mr Prodi of being irresponsible in declaring victory and says if his rival continues to take an "extremist line", the prime minister's party and its allies will "wage an unswerving battle in defence of the values and interests of 50% of voters".

Mr Berlusconi says: "However the official count of the electoral result ends up, and whoever is attributed the majority in the Chamber of Deputies, things are not going to change."

He told reporters on Friday his party were "moral victors", pointing to voting irregularities.

The statement came despite figures issued by the interior ministry lowering the number of votes being contested from 80,000 to 5,000.

'Game is up'

Mr Prodi claimed victory in the polls after official results showed he had won just enough seats to control the Senate (upper house) after having already won a lower house majority.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The coalition on the left is made up of parties that had only one thing in common: defeat Berlusconi
Fulvia Mancini, Bologna, Italy

The count gave Mr Prodi 158 Senate seats, against 156 for Mr Berlusconi. Mr Prodi won the lower house by about 25,000 votes in the election on Sunday and Monday.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the lower number of contested ballots means the official result cannot now be switched back to a win for Mr Berlusconi.

Mr Prodi said on Friday: "The game's up. It's time to recognise our victory and to move on."

The results are considered provisional until Italy's supreme court, the Corte di Cassazione, rules on their validity. This is expected to happen next week.





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Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi remains defiant




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