- Associated Press - Sunday, November 13, 2011

ROME — Italy’s new premier-designate economist Mario Monti said Sunday he will get to work quickly to try to form a new government, assuring the nation that it can solve its financial crisis.

Mr. Monti told reporters he will carry out the task “with a great sense of responsibility and service toward this nation.” He added that Italy must “heal its finances” and resume growth because Italy’s current leaders owe it to future generations.

The former competition commissioner for the European Union received the formal mandate from President Giorgio Napolitano. Mr. Monti must now draw up a Cabinet, lay out his priorities and see if he has enough support in Parliament to govern effectively.

Hours earlier, Silvio Berlusconi’s party gave its crucial approval for Mr. Monti to assemble a government but insisted that it last only long enough to implement urgently need economic reforms.

Mr. Berlusconi resigned reluctantly as premier late Saturday, bowing out after world markets pummeled Italy’s borrowing ability, reflecting a loss of faith in his economic program. Mr. Berlusconi quit shortly after the Italian parliament approved new reform measures demanded by the European Union and central bank officials.

Angelino Alfano, head of Mr. Berlusconi’s conservative Freedom People party, said he told Mr. Napolitano that Mr. Monti has his party’s “consensus” to try to form a government.

“We have given our willingness to Professor Monti,” she said.

But whether Mr. Berlusconi’s forces will give Mr. Monti crucial support in Parliament depends on whom he chooses for his Cabinet and what his government’s priorities will be. Mr. Alfano stressed that no opposition members should be in the Cabinet.

“Our preference is for technocrats to join” the Cabinet, he told reporters.

He also added another condition, insisting that a Monti government “cannot last longer” than the time needed to implement the economic reforms. Mr. Berlusconi and his supporters have made clear they want elections soon, not at their scheduled time of spring 2013.

As Mr. Alfano spoke, a crowd of Berlusconi supporters cheered and applauded the outgoing premier as he got into a car at his private residence in Rome. That was in sharp contrast to Saturday night, when hundreds of Romans heckled and jeered him and popped open bottles of sparking wine to toast his departure.

Mr. Monti faces the monumental task of preventing an Italian default that could tear apart the coalition of 17 countries that use the euro and send Europe and the United States into new recessions.

Italy’s economy is hampered by high wage-costs, low productivity, fat government payrolls, excessive taxes, a clogged bureaucracy and an educational system that produces one of the lowest levels of college graduates in the industrialized world.

Also, as the third-largest economy in the eurozone, Italy is considered too big for Europe to bail out, as it did Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

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