Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search) handed in his resignation Wednesday to Italy's president and pledged to form a new government to strengthen his coalition that has been weakened by a sluggish economy and Italian participation in the war in Iraq.

A statement from President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (search) said Berlusconi has tendered the resignation of his Cabinet, bringing to an end Italy's longest-serving government since World War II (search).

Berlusconi had been under pressure to resign since his party suffered a stinging defeat in regional elections earlier this month.

He went to the Quirinale presidential palace after an address to the Senate, in which he expressed his plan to resign and form a new government.

Once a government resigns, it is up to the president to designate a candidate to try to form a new one or else dissolve parliament and call early elections. Ciampi is likely to give Berlusconi a new mandate.