ROME  - Italian leftist leader Pier Luigi Bersani said Monday that the recession-hit country was in a "dramatic situation" and needed "a government which performs miracles", as he raced to try and shore up the support to govern. Bersani was given the official go-ahead on Friday to try and form a government after February elections that left the country in political gridlock - but the leftist has come under increasing pressure from the centre right, led by rival Silvio Berlusconi, to share the task.

"The truth is that there is a dramatic situation... We need a government which performs miracles," Bersani said after consultations with trade unions which precede talks with political parties on Tuesday. The former Communist and head of the Democratic Party (PD) is seeking to establish a minority government reliant on votes from other parties in parliament. "These are the crucial days for Bersani's attempt, but there's pessimism in the air. Instead of serious attempts to find an agreement, we have increasingly fiery controversies," said Stefano Folli, political expert for Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper. The centre-left - which won a majority in the lower house but not in the upper house at last month's vote, leaving it scrambling for support - has so far ruled out allying with the centre-right, led by the scandal-hit former premier Berlusconi. Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL) and allies came a close second in the election and are insisting that Bersani accept the idea of a "grand coalition" or the country must return to the vote. "The line is absolutely clear. We ask two things: either the Democratic Party does an about turn... and shows openness to a government with the People of Freedom party... or (we) go straight back to the vote," Berlusconi said in a telephone interview on his own Canale 6 television.