ROME: Italy's billionaire former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday implied his tax fraud conviction could bring down the government but said it would be his opponents' fault if it happened.
"They will say it is my fault if ministers from the PDL are weighing their resignations," Berlusconi said in an interview with Catholic weekly Tempi, referring to the People of Freedom party that he founded.
"But I ask myself, if two friends are in a boat and one of them throws the other into the sea, whose fault is it if the boat then drifts off course?" he said.
Berlusconi earlier this month received his first definitive conviction in decades of legal battles in a landmark supreme court decision that has put Italy's political scene on edge once again.
Berlusconi, who is also appealing convictions for having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office, faces 12 months of either house arrest or community service and a temporary ban from parliament.
The August 1 ruling has raised tensions in an uneasy coalition whose two main members are the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and its historic arch-rival, the PDL.
There are five PDL ministers in the government.
The PD has said it will vote to eject Berlusconi from the Senate following the conviction and in accordance with new rules to get criminals out of parliament but the PDL questions whether these apply to Berlusconi.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta, a leader of the PD, antagonised supporters of the scandal-tainted politico earlier this week saying he would not interfere if the PD decides to vote against Berlusconi in the Senate.
Fans of the ageing playboy are also hoping for a last resort solution -- a pardon from President Giorgio Napolitano, although critics say that such a decision could seriously undermine Italy's credibility.
Luigi Amicone, the editor of Tempi, a publication run by the Catholic conservative movement Communion and Liberation, said Berlusconi's comments mean the government "has little time left".
"Enrico Letta has burnt the bridges of dialogue for a fair parliamentary solution to the killer sentence from the supreme court," Amicone said.
In the interview extracts released on Thursday, Berlusconi also reiterated his objection to the conviction saying it was a "judicial massacre" against a politician "elected by millions of Italians".
He said he had been "deprived of freedom of speech".
Berlusconi, 76, has been a member of parliament since 1994 when the billionaire tycoon first entered politics, becoming a headline act for the next two decades.
He has kept a relatively low public profile since leading a rally against the sentence outside his lavish palazzo in Rome on August 4, in a summer month in which many Italians are on beachside holidays.
A Senate committee charged with debating whether Berlusconi should be ejected from the chamber is due to meet on September 9, even though a vote by the chamber as a whole is required for the sanction to be approved because of parliamentary immunity rules.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, a top Berlusconi ally and national secretary of his party, struck a more conciliatory tone in a speech on Thursday pleading with left-wingers not to vote against him.
"The PDL is not asking for favours for Berlusconi, just that they not make the vote a personal issue," he said, adding that they should not try to issue "a political verdict against their historic rival".