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Italy's Monti Says He Won't Run for Premier

By Frances D'Emilio

ROME -- Italy's caretaker Premier Mario Monti said Sunday he won't run in February elections, but if political parties that back his anticrisis agenda ask him to head the next government he would consider the offer.

Monti ruled out heading any ticket himself, saying "I have no sympathy for 'personal' parties."

At a news conference, Monti made clear he was spurning an offer from his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi to run on a center-right election ticket backed by the media mogul, citing Berlusconi's heavy criticism of his economic policies.

Monti's decision ends weeks of speculation that have dominated Italian politics and preoccupied Europe, which is eager to see Monti's financial reforms continue.

The premier, an economist who has spent 13 months tasked with trying to right Italy's troubled economy, said Berlusconi's flipping back and forth between condemning the government's economic policies and then praising the premier convinced him that "I couldn't accept his offer."

Monti was tapped by Italy's president to lead the country after Berlusconi was forced to resign, having lost the confidence of international markets. He stepped down Friday after Berlusconi's party withdrew its support from his technical government, but has been asked stay on in a caretaker capacity in the run-up to Feb. 24-25 elections.

Other centrist parties in Parliament have been urging him to run for another stint as premier. Monti said "I won't line up with anyone," but made clear he was available to head the next government.

"If one or more political forces is credibly backing (Monti's) agenda or even has a better one, I'd evaluate the offer," Monti said.

"To those forces who demonstrate convincing and credible adherence to (my) agenda, I will be ready to give encouragement, and if necessary, lead" the country, he said.

Monti expressed gratitude to Berlusconi for his backing of key anticrisis measures, but said "I struggle to understand his line of thought."

"Yesterday, we read that he assessed the work of the (Monti) government to be a complete disaster. A few days earlier I read flattering things," he said.

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