ROME (Reuters) - Italy's centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, front runner to lead the next government, backed Prime Minister Mario Monti's reforms on Thursday and said the former European Commissioner would continue to play a role after elections early next year.
Bersani told foreign reporters in Rome that Monti's agenda of fiscal rigor and respect for the budget limits agreed with European partners would be indispensable.
"Discipline and credibility are points we cannot turn back from," Bersani said.
Bersani, who has said previously that it would not be a good idea for Monti to stand in the elections as a candidate, said he was sure the 69 year-old economics professor would have an important part to play after the vote.
He said he was confident the centre-left would have enough support for a solid majority in both the lower and upper houses following the election and said he was open to dialogue with centrist parties.
The centre-left is well ahead in opinion polls for elections expected to be held in February. Bersani, the centre-left's candidate for prime minister, is in pole position to take over Monti's efforts to control strained public finances and tackle a deep recession.
(Reporting By Steve Scherer and Giselda Vagnoni, writing by Catherine Hornby)