Ministers quit Italian government


Four top officials from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, including a Cabinet member, have resigned today in a move designed to bring down his administration and possibly trigger early elections.

Four members of the new Future and Liberty for Italy party formed by chamber of deputies speaker Gianfranco Fini sent their letters of resignation to the premier, a spokesman for deputy industry minister Adolfo Urso said.

Mr Urso was among those who stepped down. EU Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi also resigned.

Mr Fini, who broke with Mr Berlusconi in July, called for the premier's resignation earlier this month after media reports that Mr Berlusconi helped secure the release from police custody of a 17-year-old nightclub dancer.

The rupture with Mr Fini, who co- founded the premier's People of Liberty party, comes as parliament prepares to vote on the government's 2011 budget.

Italy, one of the most heavily indebted states in the eurozone, has so far avoided the turmoil hitting countries like Ireland or Greece but politicians on all sides are acutely aware of the danger that markets may be unnerved by prolonged political uncertainty.