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Nov 13, 2011 at 08:19am IST

Berlusconi quits, Monti said to be next Italy PM

Rome: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has resigned after parliament's lower chamber passed European-demanded reforms, ending a 17-year political era and setting in motion a transition aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of economic crisis.

A chorus of Handel's "Alleluia," performed by a few dozen singers and classical musicians, rang out in front of the president's palace as thousands of Italians poured into downtown Rome to rejoice at the end of Berlusconi's scandal-marred reign.

Hecklers shouted "Buffoon, Buffoon!" as Berlusconi's motorcade entered and exited the presidential palace, where he tendered his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday, the palace said in a statement.

Berlusconi quits, Monti said to be next Italy PM

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has resigned after parliament's lower chamber passed European-demanded reforms.

Respected former European commissioner Mario Monti remained the top choice to try to steer the country out of its debt woes as the head of a transitional government, but Berlusconi's allies remained split over whether to support

him.

Their opposition wasn't expected to scuttle Napolitano's plans to ask Monti to try to form an interim government as early as on Sunday, but it could make Monti's job more difficult.

Napolitano will hold consultations on Sunday morning with all Italy's political forces. The back-to-back, 10-minute meetings he has scheduled indicated the talks wouldn't drag on and that Monti would be nominated by the end of the day.

Late on Saturday, Berlusconi's party said it would support Monti, albeit with conditions.

Berlusconi's resignation was set in motion after the Chamber of Deputies, with a vote on Saturday of 380-26 with two abstentions, approved economic reforms which include increasing the retirement age starting in 2026 but do nothing

to open up Italy's inflexible labour market.

The Senate approved it a day earlier and Napolitano signed the legislation on Saturday afternoon, paving the way for Berlusconi to leave office as he promised to do after losing his parliamentary majority earlier in the week. He chaired his final Cabinet meeting on Saturday evening and thanked his

ministers.

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