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Ending standoff, Italy’s Berlusconi resigns post

/ Source: news services

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the longest-serving premier in postwar Italy, handed in his resignation Tuesday to Italy’s president, paving the way for a center-left government led by Romano Prodi.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked Berlusconi to remain on as caretaker, the president’s office said in a statement.

“The president of the republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, has met this morning with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has handed in the resignation of the Cabinet he presides,” the statement said.

Berlusconi, leader of the conservatives elected in 2001, had steadily refused to concede defeat since the nation’s April 9-10 elections.

Ciampi, 85, had been under pressure to end Italy’s post-election political stalemate.

With credit rating agencies pushing for prompt action to tackle the country’s struggling economy and wayward public finances, Italy may now have a center-left government led by Prodi in place by the end of the week.

Prodi ready to jump in
Earlier, Prodi said his cabinet team would be ready by Friday.

“If I get the mandate soon, I have to have my list of ministers ready. If I get it later, I will just have to hold on to the list for a while,” Prodi told reporters on Monday.

Prodi’s coalition, ranging from communists to centrist Roman Catholics, won the election by the smallest margin in modern Italian history.

Prodi, a former European Commission president, has stressed that Italy could give the world and markets a sign of stability if his government gets down to business quickly.