Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday said he'll run again for the premiership if needed, in an apparent change-of-tactic only a few weeks after indicating his nearly two decades in power were nearing an end.
Last month, Berlusconi told reporters that Justice Minister Angelino Alfano could succeed him in the office after parliament's term runs out in 2013.
But the media mogul said on state TV that he and party leaders will decide in two years who will run for the office.
"We'll see at the end of this legislature if it will be necessary for the center-right to put me up for election again at the helm of the government," Berlusconi said.
If that's the case, "I won't hold back," Berlusconi said during taping of the show, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Should he not run again, Berlusconi's economy minister Giulio Tremonti would be a top choice, the premier said, adding that he would eep some political role for himself, such as running the party.
The 74-year-old premier has long battled judicial woes, most of them stemming from dealings in his media empire, since shortly after he jumped into politics in the early 1990s. So far, he has either been acquitted or seen the statute of limitations expire. Among the criminal cases he is currently being prosecuted for, one is a trial in Milan in which he is accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing in all of the probes, insisting that he is the victim of prosecutors he contends sympathize with the left.