* Former PM says would be "disaster" if Italy leaves euro
* Says PDL party pressuring him to run as candidate
PARIS Aug 11 Former Italian prime minister
Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday his People of Freedom (PDL)
party firmly opposed Italy leaving the euro and believed such a
policy would be disastrous.
Berlusconi alarmed many observers earlier this year by
musing openly about Italy quitting the euro zone, but he told
the French newspaper Liberation in an interview that his remarks
had been misreported.
He said some members of his party had raised the possibility
just to put pressure on Germany to relent with its demands for
painful fiscal austerity.
"I always said that the exit of one or more of its members
would mean the disintegration of the euro zone. It would mean
the failure of a historic project to unify Europe and no one
could want that," he said. "Within the PDL, we all consider that
an exit from the euro would be a disaster."
Berlusconi, who resigned last November to cede the
premiership to technocrat Mario Monti, also said he had not yet
decided whether to lead his party in next April's general
"It's a fact that the whole party, starting with the members
of parliament, are asking me to come back to benefit from my
popularity at the general election," said the 75-year-old
billionaire, who has served three times as prime minister.
"I have not yet decided but one thing is for sure: I have
always been at the service of my country."
The PDL's parliamentary leader, Fabrizio Cicchito, said last
month that Berlusconi would be the party's candidate. The
Mediaset magnate has kept a low profile since resigning
in the middle of financial turmoil that risked tipping the euro
zone's third largest economy into a Greek-style crisis.
Monti has ruled out running in next year's election and
polls suggest a centre-left bloc around the Democratic Party
would win, with the PDL battling for second place with the
maverick 5 Star movement led by former comedian Beppe Grillo.
Berlusconi told Liberation the country's left had not
modernised itself and was stuck with an outdated tax-and-spend
model ill-suited to Italy's troubled economic situation.
"What pushes me to remain active is a sense of
responsibility toward my country and, perhaps, the bitterness of
not having accomplished everything which I wanted," he said.
Berlusconi, on trial on allegations of paying for sex with a
teenager, said he was a victim of "a lynching for political
"Nothing strange took place, just some friends who came to
my house with admirers - none of whom was an escort girl - for
some dinners which were perfectly calm," he told the newspaper.
(Reporting By Daniel Flynn; Editing by Stephen Powell)