Italy's Monti says next government must stick to his reforms

  • World
  • Thursday, 13 Dec 2012

European Commission President President Jose Manuel Barroso poses with Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti (L) ahead of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mario Monti urged the next Italian government on Thursday to continue his economic reform agenda and said coming elections would lead to a pro-European administration.

Monti, speaking in Brussels, refused to comment on former premier Silvio Berlusconi's offer to withdraw his own candidacy in the election if the former European commissioner agreed to head a centre-right coalition.

Berlusconi has declared he is standing for his fifth term as prime minister, a decision that has caused nervousness on international markets and fears that he would turn back Monti's austerity agenda.

But Berlusconi, who has become notorious for constantly changing his mind, pulled the latest of a series of surprises on Wednesday, declaring at a book launch that he would drop plans to run if Monti, whom he has attacked fiercely in recent days, would agree to lead the centre-right in his place.

Asked about the remark in Brussels where he was attending a summit of European Union leaders, Monti said it was not the time or place to respond and he was committed to leading the government in the brief time remaining before the 2013 budget is approved and he resigns - probably before Christmas.

Monti said the elections, expected in February after Berlusconi's party withdraw its support for him in parliament, would produce a government committed to Europe.

Berlusconi's announcement that he was running in the election sent Italy's borrowing costs shooting up on Monday.

The news also sparked alarm among European leaders at the prospect of a repeat of the chaos and scandal surrounding Berlusconi's last government which was forced from power at the height of the financial crisis last year.

However with opinion polls suggesting Berlusconi has almost no chance of winning the election, market reaction has calmed since and an auction of three year bonds on Thursday saw the Treasury pay the lowest borrowing costs since late 2010.

Monti is under pressure from fellow European leaders, international investors and centrist groups in Italy to stand for a second term. But he has not decided yet whether to do so.

(Reporting By Luke Baker; writing by James Mackenzie)

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