Italy's Meloni vows government action to tackle soaring energy prices

Nationalist Brothers of Italy party holds closing rally in Naples

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's next government will direct its efforts to trying to tame soaring energy prices, Giorgia Meloni, who is widely expected to be named prime minister, said on Saturday.

Meloni's Brothers of Italy party and allies Forza Italia and the League face a daunting list of challenges, including the spike in energy prices largely caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"I still think this is a primary responsibility of the new government, and we are obviously committed to working on this," said Meloni, who was speaking in Milan at an event held by Italy's biggest agriculture lobby Coldiretti in her first public appearance since the election night.

Welcomed by rapturous applause, Meloni took the stage and blamed the ballooning cost of energy on speculation.

She said she was in "regular contact" with the outgoing government of Mario Draghi and that she would defend Italy's national interest, but that would not mean embracing a negative attitude towards international partners.

As European Union countries debate on whether to set a gas price cap for the bloc to counter surging gas and electricity costs, Germany on Thursday set out a 200 billion euro ($196 billion) "defensive shield" to protect its companies and households.

Earlier on Saturday, Meloni met Forza Italia leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss, amongst other things, pressing topics such as energy prices, the two parties said in a joint statement.

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(Reporting by Federico Maccioni; Editing by Mike Harrison)