ORVIETO, Italy, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Italy can lower its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.6 trillion) public debt only gradually, the economy minister said, after the EU Commission asked for details on Rome's debt reduction path.
Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said Brussels was not challenging the draft budget submitted by Italy earlier this month, but simply asking for clarifications.
"Italy has made use in the past of (so-called EU) 'flexibility' on public finances because public debt must be lowered but the reduction can only be gradual and sustainable to be credible," he said on the sideline of a campaign event ahead of regional elections in the central Umbria region. ($1 = 0.8995 euros)
(Reporting by Stefano Bernabei, writing by Valentina Za)
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