Berlusconi arrives at cabinet

Premier Silvio Berlusconi arrived at a cabinet meeting today where he is expected to announce his intention to resign, clearing the way for a new Italian government led by Romano Prodi.

Berlusconi arrived at the premier’s office after attending a state funeral for three Italians killed in Iraq last week. After the meeting, he is expected to travel to the president’s palace to hand in his resignation.

Berlusconi, leader of the conservatives, is then expected to be asked to stay on as caretaker prime minister. The media mogul, who was elected to power in 2001, has been the longest-serving premier in post-war Italy.

“Democracy goes on, sometimes slowly, but it does,” said Prodi, welcoming the move. “It is a very important step.”

“I hope the political vacuum doesn’t go on for too long,” he added. Prodi also said he hoped he would be able to “exchange all information and advice necessary in such cases” with Berlusconi, who refused to concede defeat for weeks after the April 9 and 10 vote.

It was not clear if President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi would immediately give Prodi, whose centre-left coalition scored a narrow victory over Berlusconi and his conservative allies at the elections, the mandate to form a government, reports Irish Examiner.

I.L.