Berlusconi falls out with top ally

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his main coalition partner fell into a public shouting match on yesterday, inflaming simmering tensions that threaten the stability of Italy's conservative government.

In a rare open debate among the top rungs of Berlusconi's Party of Freedom, right-wing leader Gianfranco Fini, a co-founder of the party in 2009, criticised the style and substance of Berlusconi's leadership.

"I don't like the house that I helped to create," he said. No sooner had Fini taken his seat than Berlusconi, who had already addressed the hall, got back up and laid into his rival.