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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Berlusconi resigns as Italian PM
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi addresses the Senate, 20 April 2005
Mr Berlusconi is determined to stay in power
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned, but says he will soon put together a new coalition.

He told the upper house of parliament that his party had a mandate to lead until 2006 and it would do so.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked him to stay on as caretaker prime minister, urging talks with allies.

Mr Berlusconi's centre-right coalition - Italy's longest serving post-war government - was rocked by poor results in recent regional elections.

Following a 40-minute meeting with the president, Mr Berlusconi told reporters he would move quickly to form a new coalition.

BERLUSCONI IN CRISIS
4 April: PM's party wins just two of 13 regional elections
14 April: National Alliance calls for vote of confidence
15 April: Union Of Christian Democrats pulls out of governing coalition
20 April: PM resigns, but will stay on as caretaker while he forms new coalition

"Thursday morning we will begin the consultations and they will be finished at midday Friday," he said.

His government was plunged into crisis last week when the smallest of the four parties in the coalition, the Union of Christian Democrats, withdrew its four ministers.

Mr Berlusconi's main coalition partner, the National Alliance, also threatened to quit. It believes current policies are skewed in favour of the country's more prosperous north, represented in the coalition by the Northern League.

Decline in popularity

Correspondents say assembling a new team may prove difficult, as Mr Berlusconi risks alienating the Northern League if he gives more posts to the National Alliance.

"We have written important pages in our country's history," Mr Berlusconi said in his speech to the Senate, addressing the government benches.

"With your confidence and your support, I am sure we will write many more."

If Mr Berlusconi can form a new government he will avoid having to call a general election a year ahead of schedule.

Mr Berlusconi has said he is determined to serve out his five-year term, which ends next year.

Popular opposition to Italy's role in the war in Iraq and a struggling economy have contributed to a decline in the prime minister's popularity.

The regional elections earlier this month saw the opposition win 11 of the 13 regions up for re-election and about 54% of the vote.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Silvio Berlusconi addressing parliament



SEE ALSO:
Berlusconi loses coalition ally
15 Apr 05 |  Europe
Q&A: Italy regional elections
01 Apr 05 |  Europe


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