24 Dec 2012

Monti available again

9:27 am on 24 December 2012

Caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy says he remains available to head a future government.

Elections are to be held on 24 - 25 February and Mr Monti said on Sunday he was ready to lead any coalition committed to his reforms.

Elections are to be held in February. Mr Monti resigned on Friday after the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi withdrew its support on 6 December.

Mr Monti was nominated as technocratic prime minister in November 2011, after Mr Berlusconi's coalition government fell amidst a financial and economic crisis.

"That financial emergency has been overcome," Mr Monti said on Sunday. "Italians can once again hold their heads high as citizens of Europe."

Asked repeatedly if he was going to run in the election, Mr Monti said he cared more about policies than about the personalities involved in the election.

"I'm not siding with anyone - I'd like parties and social forces to side with ideas," he said.

But he added:

"I would be ready to give my advice, my encouragement and if necessary leadership.

"I would also be ready to assume one day, if required by circumstances, the responsibilities that would be entrusted to me by the parliament."

Mr Monti, 69, is an economist and former EU commissioner who first served as a minister under Mr Berlusconi in 1994.

His government has been praised for its initial reforms and for calming financial markets, though much of its reform agenda has been watered down or blocked.

A BBC correspondent said Mr Monti is playing his cards close to his chest and keeping his options open.

He has appealed to the parties to push through further reforms of the labour market and institutions in Italy.