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Thousands attend anti-Berlusconi protest in Rome

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Italians take to the streets in Rome in protest at Berlusconi

Tens of thousands of Italians have been taking part in a protest in Rome's main square against the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The demonstrators, called out by the opposition and unions, accused him of changing laws for his own benefit.

The protest organisers also called for employment, education and health to be at the centre of campaigning for this month's regional elections.

One recent poll showed support for his government nearing its lowest levels.

Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party has seen its preparations for the regional elections on 28 and 29 March marred by problems over electoral lists.

Italy's top administrative court, the State Council, refused on Saturday to reinstate the ruling coalition's candidates for the Lazio region, which includes Rome.

The government had passed an emergency decree to ensure its list was included, despite a People of Freedom official missing a deadline to submit the required documents to local electoral officials.

Mr Berlusconi has said the list was excluded as an attempt to damage his party, and that he only acts in the interests of Italian democracy.

Italy's political atmosphere has rarely been more intense since he came to office two years ago, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome.



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