Italian president gives parties more time to form government

ROME:  Italian President Sergio Mattarella will give more time to the League and 5-Star Movement to strike a government pact aimed at ending nine weeks of political stalemate, a source in the president's office said on Thursday.

The two parties, which are hostile to European Union budget restrictions and have made electoral pledges that would cost billions of euros to implement, asked the head of state on Wednesday for 24 hours to see if they could reach a deal.

A source close to 5-Star told Reuters he believed they might need "a few more days" to find an accord.

Italy has been stuck in political limbo since an inconclusive March 4 election that saw a centre-right bloc, including the anti-immigrant League, win the most seats, and the 5-Star emerge as easily the largest single party.

5-Star had signalled for weeks it was ready to form a coalition with the League, but not with its electoral ally, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

After always of refusing to accept such a veto, Berlusconi finally gave way late on Wednesday, saying the League was free to work with 5-Star.

Berlusconi's retreat removed a major obstacle to an accord but even so, government talks between 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio and the League's Matteo Salvini will not be simple.

5-Star draws much of its support in the impoverished south while the League's electoral base is the wealthy north. While 5-Star wants to introduce generous welfare benefits, the League wants to slash taxes.