Briefly: Europe

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ITALY

Berlusconi ally issues ultimatum for his support

ROME — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s key political ally issued an ultimatum Sunday to the embattled Italian leader, saying he must lower taxes, decentralize government and end the country’s participation in the Libyan war if he wants to remain in power.

Northern League leader Umberto Bossi also said early elections would be an unwise gift to the opposition - indicating that Mr. Berlusconi could count on his support for now.

Mr. Bossi listed his demands at the Northern League’s annual rally in the party’s power base near Bergamo. The speech was eagerly anticipated because Mr. Berlusconi’s political survival has been put into question after two recent electoral drubbings.

The prime minister, whose popularity has shrunk as a result of an underage sex scandal and Italy’s stagnant economy, needs the Northern League’s support to stay in power until his five-year term ends in 2013.

Mr. Bossi said Mr. Berlusconi’s government could complete its term and warned that early elections would only favor the opposition. But he said Mr. Berlusconi must respond to the Northern League’s demands, including moving at least two ministries out of Rome to the north.

GREECE

Officials in talks on another bailout package

ATHENS — Greece is talking with international creditors about a second bailout package “roughly equal” to the first $157 billion rescue it accepted a year ago, the prime minister confirmed Sunday.

George Papandreou also blamed Greece’s bloated and inefficient state sector for bringing the country to its knees and vowed to effect deep changes with a fall referendum on the constitution that would make it easier to get rid of inept officials or workers.

His proposals were responses to widespread popular anger at politicians as austerity measures cut deeply into disposable incomes.

Riots erupted on the streets of Athens last week against a new round of spending cuts and tax increases demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

SPAIN

Tens of thousands march against ‘Euro Pact’

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