Berlusconi aides push for presidential pardon for convicted leader; others fear 'civil war'

Top Silvio Berlusconi aides are maneuvering to win a presidential pardon so the ex-premier can avoid a prison term and ban on holding office, with one loyalist warning of possible "civil war" unless punishment for his tax-fraud conviction is lifted.

Renato Brunetta, a leader of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, said Saturday he and another aide requested a meeting with Italy's president, who can issue pardons. Separately, longtime Berlusconi loyalist Sandro Bondi said Italy risks "civil war" if the 76-year-old media mogul isn't spared punishment.

A law to reduce prison overcrowding slashes Berlusconi's four-year sentence to one year. Since he is over 70, he can choose house confinement or perform social services in lieu of prison.

Premier Enrico Letta's fragile coalition risks collapse if Berlusconi's party withdraws support.