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European Parliament President Antonio Tajani speaks during an event marking the start of Bulgaria's six-month presidency of EU ministerial councils in Sofia, Bulgaria, January 11, 2018. EU2018BG/Handout via REUTERS


ROME (Reuters) - Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday backed European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as a strong candidate for prime minister after upcoming national elections.

Tajani is a former EU commissioner and a member of Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party, the highest-polling group in a centre-right coalition favoured to win the most seats at the March 4 vote.

Four-times premier Berlusconi, who cannot run again himself due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction, said on RTL radio he had three candidates in mind, but named only Tajani.

"If it were possible to have Antonio Tajani as premier it would be a wonderful choice, he has always shown total and absolute loyalty to our principles and ideas, and to Silvio Berlusconi," he told RTL radio.

Current opinion polls suggest no one party or coalition will win enough seats to be able to govern alone, raising the possibility of further talks after the vote to build a majority.

The centre-right coalition, which also includes the Northern League and Brothers of Italy, have agreed that whichever party wins the most votes can pick the next premier.

(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio, writing by Isla Binnie; editing by Agnieszka Flak)

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