Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti, right, and Silvio Berlusconi last year. Photo: AFP
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is stepping down, the president's office has announced, just hours after the man he replaced, Silvio Berlusconi, said he would run again for head of government.
Monti "does not think it possible to continue his mandate and consequently made clear his intention to present his resignation," said the statement from President Giorgio Napolitano's office on Saturday.
Berlusconi's announcement confirmed comments by leading members of his party and strong hints that he had himself made over the past few days.
The 76-year-old media tycoon has called a meeting of his centre-right populist People of Freedom (PDL) party for Sunday and has opened talks with former coalition allies the Northern League to try to agree on backing a single candidate.
"I am running to win," the leader of the told journalists in Milanello, near the northern city of Milan, on Saturday.
This will be his sixth bid to become prime minister, a post he has already held three times over a political career spanning two decades.
A parliamentary revolt forced him from office in November last year as he was fighting a series of scandals that had damaged his reputation and, said critics, the country's standing.
The financial markets had reacted so badly that Italy was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Monti took over as prime minister at the head of an unelected government of technocrats.
He set about introducing a policy of tax rises and austerity measures to get the economy under control.
On Thursday, PDL members abstained from confidence votes in the government to protest Monti's policies, but stopped short of bringing down the executive they have supported until now.