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Silvio Berlusconi: 'Leaving The Euro Is Not A Blasphemy'

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SILVIO BERLUSCONI EURO
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ROME, June 20 (Reuters) - Italy should consider leaving the euro unless Germany agrees to the European Central Bank acting as a guarantor for sovereign debt and printing money to reflate the economy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday.

"Leaving the euro is not a blasphemy," he wrote on his Facebook page.

If Germany does not agree to a new role for the ECB then it should consider leaving the euro itself, Berlusconi said. "I have spoken to some German experts who would be in favour," said Berlusconi, leader of one of two main parties backing pro-European Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Earlier, at a book presentation, Berlusconi was more explicit about the prospect of a return to the lira.

"What would happen if Italy, Spain or Greece went back to their old currencies? I don't know, maybe there would be a loss of wealth but I don't understand why," he was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies.

The 75-year-old media magnate, whose People of Freedom party (PDL) lost heavily in local elections last month and has been shedding supporters steadily over the last year, is increasingly targeting the euro in a bid to regain popularity.

On June 1, he made very similar comments on the ECB and Germany and said Italy's central bank should begin printing euros or printing lira to help Italy out of recession, only to say the following day that his remarks were a "joke".

With less than a year before the next general election, Italy faces the prospect of at least two large parties running on an anti-euro ticket.

The Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo, who urges an exit from the euro, has overtaken the PDL according to recent polls to become Italy's second largest party, with more than 20 percent of voter support.

The pro-devolution Northern League also often expresses scepticism or hostility about the single currency.

Agriculture Minister Mario Catania said on Tuesday that he was worried by parties trying to cash in on rising anti-euro sentiment among Italians hit by austerity measures and deep recession.

"To point one's finger at the euro as the cause of an entire series of problems is easy, but it's also wrong," Catania told Reuters in an interview.

Leaving the euro zone "would be an economic catastrophe", he said. (Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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