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Leading light of Italy's 5-Star revives euro referendum pledge

Reuters

ROME (Reuters) - A powerful figure in Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement appeared on Tuesday to revive his party's calls for a referendum on euro membership, after other members softened their tone on the matter.

Alessandro Di Battista, one of the movement's most prominent parliamentarians, asked in an interview if a vote should be held, said: "Yes, absolutely."

The party founded by comedian Beppe Grillo started campaigning in earnest for the plebiscite in 2015, saying the people should have their say and Italy needed to restore its fiscal and monetary sovereignty.

Several senior members later played down the plan as the party sought to broaden its appeal in the build-up to next year's national election - with one describing it as just a "negotiating tool".

But Di Battista told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper that the movement, which now polls roughly neck-and-neck with the ruling Democratic Party (PD), had not stopped pushing for a vote.

"We have not changed our position at all. We have always proposed a consultative referendum, the only kind possible. When the people have their say, you have a stronger popular mandate to make sure you are treated with respect."

The different messages underline the challenge facing the party as it seeks to please some core supporters, while trying to shed its populist image and reassure foreign capitals and financial markets that it can be trusted in office.

Any such vote would not be legally binding as Italy's constitution bans referendums on matters governed by international treaties.

Italy is due to hold a national election in spring next year.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Andrew Heavens)