ROME (AP) — Italian Premier Mario Monti has ruled out running for office when his term ends, while a close ally of his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday he believes the billionaire businessman will enter the race to take back the job he reluctantly relinquished under pressure over Italy's deteriorating finances.
Monti, who was named to head a government of technocrats when Berlusconi resigned at the height of Italy's financial crisis, gave up his second post of finance minister on Wednesday. The ministry's No. 2, Vittorio Grilli, who already has filled in for Monti at several EU finance ministry meetings so the premier could tend to government matters, takes over the job.
Speaking Tuesday after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels, Monti said he has always excluded remaining in office after elections next spring, but that he would remain active as a senator for life.
After Berlusconi stepped down in November under fire for erratic leadership widely blamed for deepening Italy's crisis, Monti's government took over, securing Parliament's wide backing for an urgent package of tax hikes and spending cuts and moving forward with pension and other labor reforms. But lobbies have resisted his efforts, and there are indications some of his support from politicians is eroding as Italians suffer through austerity and e lections grow closer.
A close ally of three-time premier Berlusconi , meanwhile, said a movement is growing to support an effort to return him to the country's top post. Angelino Alfano, who now heads the People of Liberties party, said Wednesday: "I believe in the end he will decide" to run.
Berlusconi is on trial in Milan on charges he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan prostitute and then used his office to try to cover it up. He has denied the charges.