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Italy

German Chancellor Merkel expresses confidence in post-election Italy

The German chancellor has met with Italy's president in Berlin, wishing him success as he forms a new government. Angela Merkel expressed confidence that Italy will emerge from its post-election deadlock.

"The chancellor expressed her confidence in the sense of responsibility of the political forces in Italy who now have to form a government capable of acting in this complex situation," Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said in a statement Thursday.

Italy held an inconclusive general election this week that left the country with no workable majority in parliament. As Italy's head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano is tasked with overseeing the formation of his country's new government before his term in ends in May.

Merkel "wished President Napolitano good luck as he plays his part in this process," Seibert said.

Italy not 'sick'

The 87-year-old Napolitano, who also met with his German counterpart, Joachim Gauck, earlier in the day, said that, despite the electoral impasse, his country was not "sick" and posed no "contagion" risk to Europe.

"There's no Italy that has lost its direction," Napolitano said. "So there is no risk of contagion."

"I am sure that in the next few weeks an Italian government will be formed," Napolitano told reporters after meeting with Gauck.

Napolitano stressed that, in the meantime, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti was still in office and would represent Italy at an EU summit next month.

"I want to say something here clearly," Napolitano said. "Italy is currently not without a government."

No Steinbrück meeting

On Wednesday Napolitano canceled a dinner with Merkel's main opponent in Germany's September elections, Peer Steinbrück. The center-left Social Democrat (SPD) candidate called Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi, two of the top three performers in Italy's recent election, "clowns."

"It is obvious that this is not right," Napolitano said of Steinbrück's comments, adding that while "everyone can think what they want," when it comes to election outcomes, one should "be well-balanced with your own choice words."

Steinbrück's comments were considered the latest in a series of gaffes, with members from his own party even criticizing him.

"It is not diplomatic to describe politicians of a friendly country in such terms," the SPD's Ulla Burchardt, who chairs the German-Italian parliamentary group, told the Passauer Neue Presse.

dr/mkg (dpa, AFP)