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Italy’s premier criticizes Berlusconi

MILAN — Premier Mario Monti of Italy criticized his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, Thursday for demonstrating ‘‘a certain volatility in judgment’’ and urged the center-left leader to jettison extremists who he said will make the country’s path of reform more difficult.

Monti has changed tone in recent days, dropping his neutral technocratic stance as he seeks a second term, this time at the helm of a coalition of centrist parties in February elections. He is now directly challenging leaders who until a few weeks ago backed his nonelected government.

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Analyst Stefano Folli said Monti’s rhetoric has become ‘‘very incisive and even aggressive’’ in a bid to claim more voters in the center by chipping away at support for the two main political forces on the left and right.

Monti, an economist and former European Union commissioner, stepped down as head of a government of experts last month after Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support, and he is heading a caretaker government until the vote.

The election campaign is shaping up into a race with Monti in the center, Berlusconi to the right, and Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani on the left, along with forces belonging to a movement founded by comic-cum-political agitator Beppe Grillo.

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