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Berlusconi And Prodi Neck-And-Neck In Italian Election

Romano Prodi -- Italy's next prime minister? (file photo) (AFP) April 10, 2006 -- After initially predicting defeat for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, pollsters say the country's general election results are now too close to call.

Earlier, the center-left bloc led by former European Commission president Romano Prodi had appeared set for victory, with exit polls giving the coalition a lead of up to 5 percent.

But the latest projections suggest that media magnate Berlusconi is strongly back in the running. Pollster Nexus said its projection based on 44 percent of the vote gave Berlusconi's center-right bloc a 49.9 percent to 49.6 percent edge over Prodi in the lower house.

The pollster said Berlusconi also had a slight lead in the upper house Senate, based on 95 percent of its sample vote.

Analysts caution it's still too early to draw any firm conclusions. Official results are due out later tonight.

(Compiled from agency reports)