ROME (REUTERS) - Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday his centre-right party could not support Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta if he is expelled from parliament but that it did not have the numbers to bring the government down following the creation of a breakaway group by party rebels.
The comment came after a group led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, former secretary of the centre-right People of Freedom party, broke away over Berlusconi's demand that they leave the government if the Senate votes to strip him of his seat in parliament over a tax fraud conviction.
"It's very difficult to think you can remain allies in parliament and above all seated at the same table in cabinet with someone who wants to kill your leader politically,"Berlusconi told a party meeting.
However he said that the party did not have the numbers in parliament to bring the government down.
He said he was pained by the creation of the new centre right group but would remain open to cooperation with it.