Berlusconi Keeps Election Role Shrouded in Mystery

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Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi cast new doubt over his role in next year's general election when the scandal-hit billionaire said he needed to reflect on how to best make use of his long political career.

"We'll see. I'm thinking it over," Berlusconi, 76, told reporters who'd asked him if he intended to return to politics.

The three-time premier, who was driven out of office last year over his handling of the financial crisis, did not elaborate on what potential role he had in mind.

Berlusconi, who spoke from the training center of his AC Milan football team near the northern city of Varese, announced last month he would not run for premier in the 2013 election, before later vowing to remain in politics to reform the justice system after a court sentenced him to jail for tax fraud.

He was sentenced to four years in jail -- quickly reduced to one under an amnesty law -- and banned from holding public office for five years. It was just one of several scandals to hit the longest-serving prime minister of post-war Italy.

A few days later, Berlusconi warned his center-right People of Freedom party (PDL) could withdraw its support for Prime Minister Mario Monti's government, whose policy he said was leading to "a spiral of recession" for Italy's economy.

"We'll see whether it's appropriate to use my experience in a concrete way, seeing as I think I understand better than anyone else what has been done and should be done in Italy," Berlusconi said Saturday.

Italians are "very disappointed by today's politics and parties," he said.

"The PDL has suffered a decline in its reputation and results for the simple reason that I wasn't there," he added.

The PDL's secretary general Angelino Alfano has confirmed that the party will hold its primaries next month, with a dozen candidates already vying to lead the party.

Berlusconi, who was prime minister briefly in 1994, then from 2001 to 2006 and again from 2008 to 2011, has been embroiled in a string of sex and legal scandals over the years.

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