Italian government debates final measures

Italian Premier Monti jests Mayan calendar has nothing to do with his government's end

Associated Press
Monti resigns as Italy heads to elections
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Italian Premier Mario Monti delivers his speech at the Foreign Ministry for the Italian Ambassadors conference in Rome, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Monti pledged to resign as soon as the budget law is passed after Silvio Berlusconi yanked support for his government, accelerating national elections now expected in February. The budget law was approved Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

MILAN (AP) -- Mario Monti is expected to resign as Italy's Prime Minister Friday evening, keeping his pledge to step down as soon as Parliament gives final passage to the budget law.

In what could be his last official act as premier, Monti told foreign diplomats in Rome Friday that his year-old technical government had rendered the country "more trustworthy" and "competitive and attractive to foreign investors."

Italian news reports say he is expected to hand in his resignation Friday evening after his last Cabinet meeting.

"The work we did in the last 12 months has made the country more trustworthy, besides more competitive and attractive to foreign investors," Monti told diplomats, who gave him a standing ovation. "I hope that it can continue this way also in the next legislative session."

Monti cited structural reforms, such as measures to improve competition and liberalize services, as well as the recently approved anti-corruption law.

Monti took over as head of a technical government in November 2011 as Italy's borrowing costs soared in a clear market vote of no-confidence in Silvio Berlusconi's ability to reform Italy's economy.

Monti pledged to resign after Berlusconi's parliamentary party yanked its support for his government, accelerating national elections now expected in February.

Earlier Friday, Monti quipped the impending end of his technical government "was not the fault of the Mayan prophecy."

Monti will give his year-end news conference Sunday, when he is expected to announce whether he will participate in the election campaign.

Berlusconi has been toying with a return to electoral politics — after inviting Monti to run under a conservative banner. The leader of the center-left Pier Luigi Bersani is among those critical of a Monti candidacy.

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