Berlusconi slams Europe's 'lords of austerity'

ROME (AFP) - Italy's Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday said Europe's "lords of austerity" had tried to get rid of him, speaking in apparent breach of rules for candidates to stay silent the day before elections.

"I contradicted the lords of austerity who are now trying to get rid of me," Berlusconi was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying in Milan in an interview with Greek television.

Leftist candidate Antonio Ingroia asked for sanctions against the billionaire tycoon but Berlusconi's office said the interview had been given only with the explicit agreement that it be released on Monday after polls close.

The comments were then widely quoted by Italian media.

In the interview, the scandal-tainted Berlusconi said outgoing prime minister Mario Monti was "subservient and always on his knees in front of Mrs Merkel (German Chancellor Angela Merkel) and now she does not want to lose him".

"The same thing would happen with (centre left leader and poll favourite Pier Luigi) Bersani. But I would give her a run for her money," he said.

"Austerity increases the public debt and lead to a recessionary spiral that pushes up unemployment and can result in the loss of social calm," he added.

Berlusconi, who is currently a defendant in two trials for tax fraud and for having sex with an underage prostitute, also said prosecutors were "a worse mafia than the Sicilian mafia".

Italians take to the polls on Sunday and Monday, Berlusconi expected to come a close second after Bersani.

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