Italian Gov't Talks in Second Day

Italy's president began a second day of talks with party leaders Friday on a future government, after the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi (search) as Italy's premier.

Berlusconi stepped down Wednesday, but vowed to form new Cabinet immediately. On Thursday, he said he could have a lineup of new ministers ready by the end of Friday.

"I'm working, I'm serene and optimistic, and I think that with dedication and patience problems get solved," Berlusconi was quoted as saying by ANSA (search) late Thursday.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (search) is assessing whether the premier has enough support to form a new government. His talks with political parties are set to end at mid-day.

The president has two options: to dissolve parliament and call early elections or to designate a premier to assemble a new government. He is widely expected to tap Berlusconi to form a new Cabinet to serve until the end of the legislature's term in mid-2006.

The crisis of the ruling conservative coalition stems from an embarrassing defeat suffered in April 3-4 regional elections held across the country. Berlusconi's allies demanded that he step down and form a reshuffled Cabinet — a technique used by several Italian premiers in the past to strengthen faltering coalitions.

Berlusconi, who was elected in 2001 and had been leading Italy's longest-serving postwar government, had resisted the move, sensing it would undermine his image as a new-style politician.

But he was eventually forced to give in after a government partner withdrew its ministers and another one — the second largest in the coalition after Berlusconi's own party — threatened to pull out.