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News Analysis: Italy's Monti not to run for office but leaves door open for leadership

By Eric J. Lyman (Xinhua)

11:16, December 24, 2012

ROME, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Mario Monti on Sunday said he could consider to head a coalition of political forces in line with his program and eventually accept a second mandate as premier if they ask him, making results of the election next February even more difficult to predict.

"If one or more political forces, which have firmly adhered to my agenda, show the intention to candidate me as prime minister, I would consider it. Nobody could impede this," Monti said two days after he handed in his resignation.

Monti became the Italian prime minister 13 months ago after the resignation of media tycoon and three-time premiere Silvio Berlusconi, when it appeared that Italy was at risk of falling victim to the European debt crisis.

Once in office as the head of an unelected technocrat government, Monti helped to dramatically improve Italy's fiscal situation through an painful series of austerity measures that won him praise abroad, but eroded his popularity at home.

He resigned Friday after Berlusconi's allies in parliament walked out on a confidence vote.

Monti did not map out his next moves at the time, and expectations rose that he could stand as a candidate in the vote scheduled for Feb. 24-25, 2013.

It was unclear how strong as a candidate he would be - the 69-year-old economist, university professor, and former European commissioner had never run for political office. But the assumption was that if he managed to win an election, he would have the mandate and political backing he needed to see through the reform process he started.

On Sunday, Monti put those thoughts to rest. He turned down Berlusconi's offer to run on a ticket that included the People of Freedom party Berlusconi founded, and, indeed, said he would not ally himself with any political party.

But he did not close the door on returning to Palazzo Chigi, the Italian prime minister's office. Monti said he remained available to head any government coalition of parties that was committed to what he called "the Monti agenda" for reform and fiscal austerity.

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