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Berlusconi relaunches Forza Italia amid signs that center-right remains divided

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 file photo, Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he speaks on a mobile phone prior to a parliament debate, at the Senate in Rome, Italy. Berlusconi is among the world leaders who are trying to cope following allegations of massive electronic monitoring by the U.S. National Security Agency (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File) (The Associated Press)

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi has formally relaunched Forza Italia, the center-right party that catapulted him to power 20 years ago, amid clear signs of internal divisions.

The dissolution of the People of Freedom Party, voted Friday by the party leadership, has been widely expected.

But key figures were absent from the vote, including deputy prime minister Angelino Alfano and other government ministers, suggesting that divisions in the party laid bare by Berlusconi's failed attempt to bring down Premier Enrico Letta's government earlier this month have deepened.

Berlusconi sought to paper over differences, telling reporters in Rome that Alfano "enjoys his respect" and that the party was united.

Political analyst Stefano Folli said the abstentions of Alfano and other center-right ministers indicate that "a split is very probable."