Noonan's rumours bad for Berlusconi
ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government will soon be replaced by a government of technocrats led by former European Union commissioner Mario Monti, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said yesterday, citing a "high class rumour".
Mr Noonan, who was speaking at an event sponsored by the Institute for International and European Affairs, made his comment as pressure mounted on Italy's government to quit.
Six former parliamentary loyalists called for a new government and the squabbling cabinet failed to agree an urgent economic reform programme.
"Be the backer of a new political phase and a new government," the deputies wrote, according to a letter published in the daily 'Corriere della Sera'.
One of the rebels had previously been seen as among Mr Berlusconi's closest supporters.
Mr Berlusconi has rejected calls to stand aside and make way for an interim government, saying the only alternative would be to hold early elections next spring, a step he says would be irresponsible while the crisis continues.
A government source said Mr Berlusconi had informed his European partners at the G20 summit in Cannes that he would call a confidence vote within 15 days on new measures to face the economic crisis.
But he could fall before then if government rebels join the opposition in an important vote on Tuesday to sign off on the 2010 budget.