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Monti says he is open to leading next government

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm •  Published: December 23, 2012

The tiny centrist Italy Future party, meanwhile, hailed Monti as a "great political leader and international statesman," and said in a statement: "We reiterate our willingness to back with pride the agenda of Premier Monti."

The party's leaders include pro-Vatican politicians and industrialists, notably Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, the Italian Formula One racing team.

Monti said he was spurning Berlusconi's offer to sit out the election if Monti would head a center-right ticket. He expressed bewilderment at Berlusconi's sharp condemnation of his economic policies and his seemingly contradictory offer to back another Monti-led government.

"Yesterday, we read that he assessed the work of the (Monti) government to be a complete disaster. A few days earlier I read flattering things," Monti said of his predecessor. The logic "escapes me" Monti said, drawing chuckles.

Berlusconi has said he would try for a fourth term as premier if Monti doesn't run, even though he continues to face several legal and sex-related scandals.

Monti praised Parliament for backing his government's recipe of spending cuts, new taxes and pension reform, which he said saved Italy from the debt crisis.

"Italians as citizens can hold their heads up high in Europe," Monti said, noting Italy had avoided the bailouts that Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus have had to take.

Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano dissolved Parliament after Monti resigned Friday following approval of the country's national budget law. Monti noted that as a senator-for-life, he remains in Parliament and doesn't need to run for a seat in the legislature.

Voter opinion polls indicate a centrist ticket backing Monti would take about 15 percent of the vote, meaning any government he heads would need support from either of Italy's two largest political groupings: the center-right, led by Berlusconi, or the center-left, led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

After Monti's announcement Sunday, Bersani, whose forces turned out to be Monti's staunchest proponent this past year, vowed to keep up the premier's anti-crisis efforts.

By declining to directly campaign for February's balloting, Monti avoids a direct clash with him. On Sunday, Monti would only would say that Bersani is a highly "legitimate candidate for premier of a coalition."

In an interview on state TV later Sunday, Monti declined to say if he thought his agenda would get more backing from Bersani's or from Berlusconi's supporters.

Some had speculated that Monti had his sights set on the Italian presidency, since Napolitano's term ends this spring. But Monti ruled that out.