Italy's Monti 'would lead again'


Italian caretaker prime minister Mario Monti said today that the country's next government must not make easy election promises or backtrack on the reform path his technocrat administration has begun.

"We have to avoid illusory and extremely dangerous steps backwards," he said at the traditional end-year news conference.

Mr Monti, who resigned on Friday, set out a list of reforms that the winner of a February 24-25th election should tackle, including a further simplification of labour market rules following his own reform effort, and reform of the legal system.

He said he would not run in the elections, though he would agree to serve again as prime minister if a coalition backing his economic agenda won the vote.

"For the forces that are willing to convincingly and coherently adhere to the Monti agenda, I am ready to give my appreciation, encouragement, and if requested, my guidance and I'd be willing to assume one day, if the circumstances lend themselves to it, the responsibilities that could be bestowed by parliament," he said.

Mr Monti defended his government's record and said he had not felt able to accept the offer of his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi to lead the centre-right at the election.

He said he was "unable to understand" Mr Berlusconi's frequent changes of position between praising and fiercely criticising his government.

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano dissolved parliament yesterday, signing a decree after consulting with political leaders.

Mr Monti was appointed prime minister in November of last year, replacing Mr Berlusconi, who stepped down as his majority unraveled and 10-year bond yields topped 7 per cent.

Mr Berlusconi's People of Liberty Party withdrew its support on December 6th, a day after the three-time premier announced he would run in the election, reneging on a pledge to stay out of the race.