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Italy’s 5-Star denies threatening economy minister over budget

Italy’s 5-Star Movement denied on Wednesday that it had threatened to ask for Economy Minister Giovanni Tria’s resignation unless he approved billions in spending next year for its flagship campaign promise.

Five-Star leader Luigi Di Maio said late on Tuesday that if the 2019 budget did not include a universal income for the poor “it will be a problem for the government”.

The Movement wants 10 billion euros in spending to cover the measure, a senior 5-Star source told Reuters.

“That 5-Star is putting pressure on minister Tria is unfounded, as is any reference to (requesting) his possible resignation,” the group said in a statement after state news agency Ansa reported that Tria’s job had been threatened.

The coalition government, which also includes the far-right League, took office in June and the two parties have held a series of meetings in recent weeks to hammer out a compromise over next year’s budget law.

For its part, the League is seeking sweeping tax cuts — its main campaign pledge.

But to ease tensions in the markets, which sold off the country’s bonds amid fears that the government would go on a spending spree and fail to keep its mammoth debt in check, Tria and others came forward last week to say the key measures would be phased in over the five-year legislature.

Massimo Bitonci, an undersecretary at the economy ministry and a member of the League, said in a newspaper interview at the weekend that the League and 5-Star would have 5 billion euros each to implement their campaign promises in the 2019 budget.