Senior members of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right party said on Saturday they wanted a presidential pardon for the former prime minister, which would thwart a political crisis sparked by his sentencing over tax fraud.

People of Freedom party members Renato Brunetta and Renato Schifani want to meet President Giorgio Napolitano to request the pardon.

A high court decision on Thursday to uphold a one-year prison sentence for Berlusconi on charges of fraudulent offshore accounting by his media firm, Mediaset, prompted members of his party to threaten to quit the coalition government.

Napolitano cut short his holiday in northern Italy to deal with the crisis.

PDL senator Sandro Bondi warned of a "type of civil war" in Italian politics if there is no solution.

Berlusconi's sentence is to be served through house arrest or community service. The court also ruled that there is to be a further judicial review of whether Berlusconi, 76, should be banned from politics for five years.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta has urged Italy's politicians to act responsibly at what he called this "sensitive time."

Letta has led a grand coalition between his centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's party for the past three months.

Italy - the eurozone's third-biggest economy - is going through a lengthy recession while facing tough austerity measures.