ROME – Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search), expected to resign and form a new government to strengthen his conservative coalition, said after meeting Italy's president Monday that he had not stepped down, news agencies reported.
After an earlier emergency meeting of coalition leaders in Rome, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini (search) told reporters that Berlusconi would resign, ending Italy's longest-serving postwar government.
But when asked by reporters if he had handed in his resignation to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (search), Berlusconi responded, "No," the ANSA news agency reported. Berlusconi was quoted as saying he would explain the situation in parliament, but it was unclear when he would do so.
Berlusconi had been under pressure from his allies to resign since the coalition lost 11 of the 13 regions that were up for grabs in elections earlier this month.
Last week, a key centrist party headed by Deputy Premier Marco Follini pulled its ministers out of the Cabinet and demanded that Berlusconi form a fresh government with a new platform.
Follini on Monday renewed his commitment to a new Berlusconi government, and Berlusconi made the "ensuing decision to hand in his resignation to the head of state," the foreign minister said after the meeting of coalition leaders.
Resigning and immediately forming a new government is a tactic that has been used often by Italian premiers to strengthen faltering coalitions. Berlusconi had resisted the move, dismissing it as a remnant of Italy's messy political past.
Once the premier hands in a resignation, it is up to the president to decide whether to ask Berlusconi — or another candidate — to form a new government or dissolve parliament and call early elections. However, if a political agreement has been reached among majority forces, the president is expected to go along with it.
Berlusconi's coalition took power in 2001, and the premier hoped the government would become the first in postwar Italy to serve out the full five-year term.
After the center-right's collapse in the regional vote, Berlusconi had proposed a Cabinet reshuffle and a revised program to relaunch the coalition before next year's general election. The proposal was rejected by Follini's party, the Union of Christian Democrats, or UDC.