ROME (Reuters) - Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday Italy would be forced to leave the euro zone unless the European Central Bank gets more powers to ensure lower borrowing costs.
Berlusconi, who announced this month he will again lead his People of Freedom party (PDL) in a national election expected in February, said on a talk-show on state broadcaster RAI that the ECB should become a lender of last resort for the currency bloc.
"If Germany doesn't accept that the ECB must be a real central bank, if interest rates don't come down, we will be forced to leave the euro and return to our own currency in order to be competitive," Berlusconi said in comments reported by Italian news agencies Ansa and Agi.
The 76-year-old media tycoon has made similar remarks in the past about the possibility of Italy, or even Germany, leaving the euro, but has often at least partially rectified them later.
Berlusconi is already campaigning hard for the election with a spate of television interviews in an attempt to close the wide gap with the center-left Democratic Party which is polling at above 30 percent, some 14 points above the PDL.
Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister in November last year as Italian bond yields surged at the height of the euro zone debt crisis.
(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Stephen Powell)