Election date remains April 9 by Berlusconi

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that Italian parliament's current session would likely be extended by two weeks until mid-February, a two-week delay the premier had sought to give the legislature more time to pass pending bills. The delay, which must be confirmed by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, would not affect the date of elections scheduled for April.

"We'll vote on April 9, but with two more weeks of work behind us," Berlusconi said on Sky TG24. Parliament was originally scheduled to be dissolved Sunday. Berlusconi has said the delay was necessary to pass legislation still pending before one of the two chambers of parliament. He has blamed the center-left opposition for slowing down the passage of bills through long debates.

The opposition contends the move is aimed at leaving the premier free to keep up a flurry of TV and radio appearances before regulations on equal political airtime kick in, once parliament is dissolved. Berlusconi is on an all-out media offensive that has led to broadcast appearances virtually every day over the past few weeks, including soccer and variety shows, reports the AP. N.U.