By FRANCES D'EMILIO
ROME (AP) â¿¿ Italy's premier-designate, Enrico Letta, said candidly Thursday he is still short of securing support for a ruling coalition after Silvio Berlusconi's forces insisted that the media mogul's populist economic policies dominate the would-be government's agenda.
"The difficulties are there," Letta acknowledged during talks, broadcast live on TV, with one of several parliamentary groups he met with during the day in his uphill quest to procure a deal that could bring archrivals into a ruling coalition strong enough to revive growth in recession-afflicted Italy.
He added he hasn't yet decided if can succeed a day after Italy's president asked him to try to bring the forces in a highly polarized Parliament together in a grand coalition, two months after inconclusive elections left the nation in political gridlock.
"We are crossing uncharted territory in a unique and difficult situation," Letta said, referring to the election results that found bitter rivals â¿¿ his center-Left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's center-right alliance â¿¿ short of the seats needed to effectively govern without each other.
The Democratic Party whip in the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Speranza, said "sticking points on the table require extra time" to work out a coalition agreement, but stressed the premier-designate's determination to succeed.
"This country, more than ever before, cannot afford to wait" for a new government, Speranza told reporters just after he met with Letta on Thursday evening.
If Letta fails, that could mean fresh, and perhaps again, inconclusive elections for the country, a prospect sure to spook financial markets anxious for economic reform to heal Italy's shaky finances and revive growth in the eurozone's No. 3 economy.
Letta voiced his reservations about whether he can form a government after a two-hour meeting with top aides to Berlusconi, the former three-time premier who was in Texas for the dedication of the library of his friend, George W. Bush, the former U.S. president.