Berlusconi's center-right in schism after his political heir decides to form new party

Italian news reports say Silvio Berlusconi has suffered a major setback after his political heir announced he was leaving Berlusconi's party to form a new political grouping.

The LaPresse news agency quoted Angelino Alfano, Italy's current interior minister and deputy premier, as telling colleagues Friday that his "New Center-Right" would support Berlusconi, who on Saturday is due to re-launch his original Forza Italia party.

But the refusal of Alfano and other Berlusconi allies to join Forza Italia marked a formal schism in Italy's center-right that has been in the works ever since Berlusconi was forced to back down on his threat to topple Premier Enrico Letta's government.

Berlusconi had to do an about-face on Oct. 2 after key loyalists refused to back him.

The implications of the split on Letta's government weren't immediately clear.