Italian PM says will resign if coalition squabbles persist

Rome (AFP) –


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday said he was ready to resign unless the two parties in the governing populist coalition -- the League and the Five Star Movement --stopped squabbling.

"I am asking both these political forces to make a choice and tell me if they still want to honour the government's obligations," he said. If not, "I will simply end my mandate."

"I want a clear, unequivocal and speedy response," he said.

Conte is seeking a clear mandate to continue a dialogue with the European Union over Italy's public debt.

Italy's far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is from the League, said last Tuesday that he expected Brussels to sanction his country for its deteriorating deficit and huge debt by imposing a fine of three billion euros ($3.3 billion).

"At a time when youth unemployment is reaching 50 percent in some regions... someone in Brussels is asking us, under past rules, for a fine of three billion euros," he told RTL radio.

The populist-far right coalition in Italy was already been in conflict with Brussels late last year over Rome's big-spending 2019 budget, which the commission rejected in a historic first.

Both sides finally softened their positions to reach a compromise, but in the commission's latest economic forecasts, published in early May, Italy was the worst economic performer in the eurozone, with zero growth well below other countries and debt at a record level.