Premier Silvio Berlusconi is hanging tough, refusing to concede to center-left leader Romano Prodi even as a top court confirmed his defeat in the lower house of parliament in one of Italy's closest elections.

"We'll fight. They'll have to deal with us," Berlusconi was quoted as saying Thursday in the newspaper La Repubblica. Other newspapers published similar comments, and many reported the conservative leader has no intention of calling Prodi.

Meanwhile, Prodi, who called Berlusconi's resistance "sad," continued working to form his Cabinet.

La Repubblica reported Thursday that he plans to give the Economy Ministry — a key post amid Italy's economic woes — to Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, a former board member of the European Central Bank and a highly respected economist.

Berlusconi has made no public comments since the court's announcement Wednesday that Prodi, a former premier and European Union chief, won the lower house by 24,755 votes — a margin virtually unchanged from the one previously announced. The court made the announcement after a review of contested ballots.

Prodi's two-seat majority in the upper house was widely expected also to be confirmed.

"Sooner or later they will recognize how things are," Prodi said Thursday of the center-right's refusal to concede. "It is very sad that there should be something like this in a mature democracy."

Several world leaders, including from Britain, France, Germany and Israel, have called Prodi to congratulate him. However, close Berlusconi allies President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have not called Prodi yet, his office said Thursday.

Berlusconi has remained combative since the results of the April 9-10 election showed he lost control of parliament.

For days, he has alleged irregularities in Prodi's razor-thin margin of victory and at one point spoke of fraud, only to quickly retract.